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University vice chancellor on the merits of higher education

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: February 21, 2013

Book: Vice Chancellor of the University of Lincoln Professor Mary Stuart

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The power of higher education to transform the lives of people from working class backgrounds is celebrated in a new book by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Lincoln.

Professor Mary Stuart presents a series of personal vignettes from 150 people who became the first in their family to study at university during the last half century in Social Mobility and Higher Education: The life experiences of first generation entrants in higher education.

The book represents the culmination of a long term research project which began with an appeal for people working in higher education to present autobiographical accounts of how getting a degree changed their life chances.

Professor Stuart takes a life history approach, using their personal accounts to consider what these personal experiences say about broader changes in British society and culture since the Second World War.

Professor Stuart says: "The dialogue about the merits of higher education has become heavily politicised in recent years and, to some extent, we as a society may have lost sight of all that higher education can offer.

"In this book, I have tried to illustrate how higher education can and does transform the life chances of individual people from the humblest of backgrounds.

"The book charts the history of the growth of higher education in the UK through the eyes of people who were the first in their families to go to university.

"The message that if you have talent and ambition, then you will have the chance to apply it, regardless of your postcode or parents' income, is really fundamental to having a fair, meritocratic and prosperous society. The repercussions of pulling up the ladder for a new generation of young people could be very serious for our society."

Professor Mary Stuart joined the University of Lincoln as Vice Chancellor in 2009 and has been an advocate of the role higher education performs in supporting social mobility.

Social Mobility and Higher Education: The life experiences of first generation entrants in higher education is published by Trentham Books, £21.99.

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