The New Research Director of The 93% Foundation
After two years of research consultancy with The 93% Club, I'm thrilled to announce that I'm the new research director for the charity! In this post, I'll explain what The 93% Club is, why it's so near to my heart and what research you can expect to see.
UPDATESTHE 93% CLUB
Something I haven't spoken about on this website before is my work with The 93% Foundation, but I have some exciting announcements so it's about time to change that!
What is the 93% Foundation?
The 93% Foundation is a national charity and a series of clubs at Universities across the UK, marketed as "the first and largest network of state-educated students" or "a Bullingdon Club in reverse". Named for the 93% of students in the UK that are state-educated, the key focus is on social mobility. We aim to achieve this through empowering, upskilling and connecting state-educated students at universities across the country. On a national level, this is done through partnering with companies that are committed to social mobility and achieving a diverse workforce to promote job opportunities, and running in-person and online events to upskill and empower students. A massive success of the past year was the Social Mobility Factory, where over 200 students from around the country came to receive interview help, attend workshops
Why does this need to exist?
A private education can offer individuals the connection and institutional esteem to springboard them ahead of equally qualified or skilled competition. This is made painfully clear when we look at even a few statistics comparing state and private education:
74% of top judges in the UK were privately educated (Guardian, 2016)
Just one example of how grossly overrepresented privately educated alumni are in top jobs in the UK.
45% of UK adults who attended a comprehensive state school rated their education as "good" (under half!), compared to 77% of adults who were privately educated (YouGov, 2021).
We see a clear disparity in the perceived quality of education students are receiving based on the type of school they attend.
Basic fees at some of the most prestigious private schools in the country (Eton, Harrow and Winchester) are around £40,000 per year (Guardian, 2019), higher than the mean salary for an adult in the UK (ONS, 2020).
We see how exclusionary private schools are when the majority of UK adults do not even earn enough to send a child to a top private school, even if paying for essentials were to be ignored.
Students attending private school can expect to earn, on average, 21% more by age 30 than their state-educated counterparts of comparable socioeconomic status (Guardian, 2019).
The cycle continues and is passed through generations as privately educated students are likely to earn more, and are therefore more likely to be in a position to pay for their children to attend private school and further compounding the inequity in society.
On a personal level, attending a state school is synonymous with my socioeconomic background. I'm a daughter of a single mother. I'm the first generation of my family to attend university. I'm the first in my family to attain any post-graduate qualifications. I'm so proud of how far I've come and I'm extremely grateful for the incredibly supportive family that have always pushed and supported me. But it hasn't always been easy.
I spent my final years of high school telling teachers and peers that I wanted to pursue a medical degree and become a psychiatrist. I was met with recommendations to "get work experience in a hospital through your parents or parents' friends", with the assumption being that doctors were part of my social circle to easily be drawn upon. When that became a barrier to me, I began my undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of Birmingham. I was then surrounded by peers who were shocked that I'd never spent school holidays skiing in the Alps, or that I'd worked in a supermarket all summer to save for university instead of getting relevant (and unpaid) work experience with a parent or parents friend. When my funds ran low, I had to find part-time work alongside my studies while friends suggested I "just ask the parents to send more money". As graduation drew near and panic set in about what I was going to do afterwards, many friends told me they'd be "joining the family business". I spent hours searching the internet for information about applying for master's and PhD programmes because I had no idea how the process worked and had no family with experience in this to ask.
I can think of a hundred more examples, but my point is it can be lonely and very isolating to be surrounded by people who can connect over their skiing holidays and share experiences of boarding schools when you've never been part of that world. It makes breaking into those circles, and making connections with people who could wind up being powerful and influential, very difficult.
What's my role in this?
After setting up The 93% Club at Cardiff University and beginning in a research consultancy role with the national foundation in 2021, I'm thrilled to announce that I'm joining the National Committee as the Research Director for the coming academic year! I've got some extremely exciting research plans in the pipeline and an amazing team around me to help me translate our work to reach academics, press, policymakers and corporate partners. I'm also in the midst of setting up a top team of researchers to help me push the boundaries of what we're capable of as a charity. I don't want to give away too many specifics just yet, but expect to see high-quality and impact-driven research that will be shared with a wide range of audiences to support and steer the conversation around social mobility.
I'll be giving progress updates more frequently on Twitter, so feel free to connect with me there if you'd like to stay up to date with how I progress in this new role!