Earlier this year the University of Exeter drew attention to the South West’s significant social mobility issues, which it described as “blighting young lives”, when it launched a research project hoping to better understand the region’s challenges.
The South West, which includes pockets of significant rural and urban disadvantage, has some of the largest attainment gaps in the country at the end of primary school, as well as the lowest rate of higher education access for disadvantaged children.
The project lead, Lee Elliot Major, holds one of two university seats on Liveable Exeter Place Board, an unelected de facto decision-making and local governance body that meets in private, does not publish its discussions or decisions and exercises public functions with the potential to affect everyone who lives and works in Exeter.
He sits alongside Lisa Roberts, current university Vice-Chancellor and CEO, while Steve Smith, former university Vice-Chancellor chairs the board.
Steve Smith also chairs the social mobility research project advisory board, presumably following the “key role” he played in a “high profile advisory group aimed at improving social mobility within the higher education sector” that Universities UK convened back in 2016.