On Tuesday 18th April, hundreds of state-educated university students were invited to the ‘Social Mobility Factory’ in London. It is the brainchild of Sophie Pender, founder of the 93% club – a simultaneously inclusive and exclusive club for state-educated university students.
Since its conception in 2015, most universities now have their own branch of the 93% Club and the Nottingham club are always highly visible at the welcome fair and across social media. The 93% Club allows access to a network of other state school students, who may share common exclusionary experiences at university including facing questions like “Do you ski?” or “What school did you go to?”. While it is funny to reminisce on shared disastrous state school experiences and laugh at the ridiculous questions asked by the rich during freshers’ week, there are serious barriers that many state-educated students face. The Social Mobility Factory is a noble attempt to mitigate these challenges.
Many state-educated students lack the connections that their private school peers have developed throughout their education. While my network consists of friends’ parents who are not university educated and work in low-wage sectors, many people who went to private school have access to a plethora of lawyers, consultants, and working professionals.
It was a celebration of what state-educated students can achieve
Casual conversations at family parties can lead to valuable work experience, job offers after graduation, and general career advice that a state-educated student may only dream of. The Social Mobility Factory gives a chance for students to build their own network and seek opportunities that would not come to them otherwise.
There was a programme of simultaneous events throughout the day so there was always something to do. Career talks spanning a range of topics happened every hour, with a chance to grab a speaker at the end for a one-on-one chat. There was also a photographer to snap a snazzy new LinkedIn profile photo. Many local and national businesses formed a careers fair, sometimes offering students looking for a graduate role a fast-track to interview. The 93% Club got exactly what its demographic would appreciate, including reimbursed travel, free food and drink, and an accessible London location. Despite everyone being there due to their educational background, there was never a ‘poor me’ attitude. It was a celebration of what state-educated students can achieve, and I left feeling empowered.
While the event was a major success, its infancy does mean there are a few tweaks that could be made to make it even more successful next year. The panels of industry professionals lacked representation across ethnic backgrounds which was a contrast to the diverse student body who attended the day. Furthermore, most of the businesses there were law firms, excluding any students who were not interested in the law sector. But that being said, overall, I think the day was highly important in pioneering social mobility among students.
This event could really be the impetus for change in higher education
While it may not be a self-ascribed ‘golden ticket’ to being employed, wealthy and moving up the social hierarchy, it certainly instilled a self-belief and confidence in myself that I feel I have been lacking ever since joining university. It was refreshing to be in a room of ambitious, state-educated students who ‘got it’. From the wonderful 93% club volunteers, founder Sophie Pender and the hundreds of student attendees, everyone was friendly and passionate about making a positive difference to the world. If you happen to have been state educated and feel you lack connections in the world of work, then ensure to look out for this event next year. This event could really be the impetus for change in higher education.
The 93% Club Nottingham: https://su.nottingham.ac.uk/activities/view/93percentclub
The national 93% Club: https://www.93percent.club
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