Today we officially launch RISE- Research Institute for Social Mobility & Education. Our previous launch, due to be held in the summer, was postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but we hope to be able to host a physical launch event sometime next year.

We are proud to have close ties with the University of Bolton which is amongst the best universities in the UK for its commitment to social mobility and has one of the most socio-economically disadvantaged student populations in the country. We looking forward to working closely with Bolton to contribute to the debate about how to increase social mobility in disadvantaged northern regions as well as across the country.

Our initial focus will be on how to mitigate the impact of Covid-19, including sharing best practice amongst universities on how to create Covid-secure and Covid-resilient campuses. We will also look at developing and standardising best practice in digital and blended learning provision which looks set to become a vital method of teaching in the months and years ahead.

Professor George Holmes, RISE board member and Vice Chancellor of the University of Bolton, said:

“At RISE, we hope to be able to make the case for the measures we’ve taken so that other institutions and students can benefit around the country, and quickly.  Otherwise a whole generation of students will be left behind, and Covid-19 will do more to exacerbate social divisions and take us backwards on social mobility than anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes.

Our Co-chairman Lord Willetts said:

“Dozens of so-called ‘red wall’ constituencies in the Midlands and the North voted Conservative for the first time in a generation on the back of the Prime Minister’s promise to ‘level up’ opportunity across the country.  This task has been made so much harder by Covid-19.

“We will only be able to level up and increase social mobility if we get students safely back on campuses, learning and living as normal a university life as possible.”

Our Director, Andrea Jenkyns, MP for Morley and Outwood, said:

“George and the team at Bolton have done so much already to boost social mobility, and to ensure everyone – wherever they come from – has an opportunity to make the most of their talents.  We set up RISE to help others learn from Bolton’s experiences, and to help the government realise its aim of levelling up, because as the Prime Minister knows, there’s as much skill, talent and genius in the North as there is anywhere else in the country.

“With schools, colleges and universities shutting down, with some of society’s most vulnerable students being deprived of an education, falling behind in their social development, and often not having access to the internet at home, there is so much work still to be done to make sure we deliver on those election promises of just ten months ago.”

Future areas of investigation will look at the following:

  • What more do we need to do in schools to train teachers with technology and to teach virtually, and what work must be done to ensure that children are engaging with the online classroom?
  • Are universities adapting adequately to the new norm: are they offering value to students now that a lot of their teaching has moved online, and how are they using blended and digital learning to open up opportunities to allow students to study whilst looking after their children, or while they are on work experience placements?
  • Apprenticeships & Vocational Training. What gaps are there in vocational and technical education opportunities and apprenticeships and how can the government’s new Lifetime Skills Guarantee help address that, so that students have alternative routes through the education system and can help kick start the nation’s economic recovery at the same time.

Other board members include Professor David Hopkins, who leads RISE’s education policy development, has been chief adviser to three Education Secretaries on school standards and is currently Chair of Educational Leadership at the University of Bolton.

Professor Sonia Blandford, who leads RISE’s social mobility policy development, is a visiting professor of education at the UCL Institute of Education, CEO Achievement for All, and former Director of Research and Leadership at Teach First.




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