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Rigorous, independent
research evidence is at the
heart of everything we do

 
 

Research

We support organisations of all kinds, providing independent expertise, research and practical know-how to enable you to make real and lasting impact on socio-economic diversity and social equality.

Consequently, rigorous, independent research evidence underpins everything we do. That will almost certainly mean traditional empirical evidence, but it may also mean bringing people together to facilitate innovative, interactive enquiry.

Our objective is to make real and meaningful change for people from lower socio-economic backgrounds in three key areas:

  • Securing equal access to higher education

  • Improving graduate outcomes

  • Promoting greater diversity in the professions, including hiring and progression.

Independent thinking

Our research and policy work is undertaken independently and driven by guidance from the Charity Commission. Find out more about our approach as a charity here.

Key research themes

Learner progression from school and college to higher education

  • University and employer outreach with schools and colleges

  • Information, advice and guidance in schools and colleges, and for mature learners

  • The influence of geography on access and participation

  • University admissions practices

Equality of student outcomes in higher education

  • Being a commuter student

  • Being a mature student

  • The impact of university careers services in narrowing the gap in graduate outcomes

  • Employer practices for attracting and recruiting graduates

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace

  • The business case for greater diversity with respect to socio-economic background

  • Employer practice in attracting and hiring at all levels

  • Progression, pay and performance by socio-economic background

  • Employer practice in diversity and inclusion

Policy seminars

We are keen to respond quickly to the changing policy outlook and often do this by bringing people together to facilitate innovative, interactive enquiry. We draw inspiration from action research, a process that balances data-driven collaborative analysis with problem-solving actions implemented in a collaborative context.

Our policy seminars bring together senior colleagues from across sectors to discuss the issues and examine the evidence. We draw on these discussions to design policy recommendations and policy solutions that have real impact.

Our seminars often resemble the format of a parliamentary select committee: evidence is presented by researchers and practitioners and then debated by attendees, with the aim of making specific recommendations to governments, employers, universities and third-sector organisations.

Research outputs

2019

Bridge Group Conference 2019: key themes and recommendations

On 21 May, the Bridge Group held its headline event of the year. We convened over 200 leaders and experienced practitioners, from across sectors, to advance social equality. The event, hosted by the BBC at Broadcasting House, focused on the latest evidence and identified practical action that government, educational institutions and employers can take to effect change.

Follow the link to view our ‘highlights’ film to give you a taster of the day, view speeches by our contributors, and read key recommendations.

Socio-economic diversity and inclusion in the arts: a toolkit for employers

The Bridge Group has collaborated with Jerwood Arts to produce a landmark guide for tackling the arts sector’s ‘class crisis’. It outlines practical steps for employers to change their organisational cultures to attract and retain a more socio-economically diverse workforce. Ten years of Bridge Group research with employers to achieve socio-economic diversity, combined with ten years of practical experience from Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries programme, has led to a robust and authoritative toolkit which will drive reform.

Click on the link to view the toolkit.

The influence of place: geographical isolation and progression to higher education

This report examines the influence of geographical isolation on progression to higher education. While there has been a welcome increase in attention to geographical inequality by policymakers in recent years, rhetoric has not been matched with practical action. Our key findings include: lower levels of attainment amongst pupils living in remote areas; harmful effects emerging from the prevailing model of social mobility which focuses on 'moving on in order to move up'; and the impact of limited access to higher education on student decision-making. Our practicable recommendations for government, schools, higher education and third sector organisations promote change. 

You can read the summary report here.

The role of degree apprenticeships for social justice in higher education and employment

Participants in this seminar recognised the huge potential of degree apprenticeships for social equality, particularly their capacity to diversify the higher education and employer sectors and disrupt social segregation. For this potential to be fully realised, it was regarded as vital for the government to move away from its narrow social mobility focus to set meaningful social equality objectives for all stakeholders. Without clear policy design and objective-setting, there is a risk that degree apprenticeships will reinforce existing inequality and segregation.

You can read a summary of our discussion and a list of our recommendations here.

2018

Socio-economic background and early career progression in the law

Working with eight global law firms and the Sutton Trust, this study examines the correlation between background characteristics and early career progression in the legal profession. The research includes the analysis of data relating to over 2,800 early career professionals and interviews with current and former employees. It provides a compelling evidence base to drive a shift in mindset, and to boost firms’ efforts to increase socio-economic diversity and inclusion in the legal sector.

You can read the summary report here.

Summit on mature students in higher education

Discussion focused on the dramatic fall in participation amongst part-time students, particularly since the 2012 funding forms, and the urgency of reform in a number of areas, such as student finance and target-setting for institutions. It was evident that collective and concerted action was required from government and the sector to rejuvenate the market in flexible study. HEIs need incentives to provide opportunities for part-time study, and to improve information and guidance for prospective students to help them make informed decisions and navigate the system.

You can read a summary of our discussion and recommendations here.

Improving social mobility in accountancy

Research undertaken on behalf of Access Accountancy by the Bridge Group has revealed that while actions taken across the accountancy profession to improve social mobility has improved the understanding of young people from more challenging socio-economic backgrounds, there is still more to do. In the largest cross-sector collaboration social mobility analysis exercise that has been attempted internationally, the accountancy profession has demonstrated its commitment to improving social mobility within the profession and that it is leading the way in trying to understand hiring practices and making substantive changes.

2017

Diversity in grant awarding and recruitment at Wellcome

To investigate diversity at Wellcome, the Bridge Group adopted a mixed methods approach, including analysis of application data and interviews with internal and external stakeholders. Our report identifies effective practice at peer organisations, considers the way in which Wellcome currently approaches data capture and analysis, and provides a series of practicable recommendations, subsequently implemented by Wellcome. Our findings also have significant, wider implications for the scientific community.

You can read the summary report here. Wellcome outlines how our findings and recommendations have helped to shape their approaches here.

Introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination: monitoring and maximising diversity

The Bridge Group undertook an independent study considering the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) plans for the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), and the impact it could have on diversity in the profession. We conclude that the proposals are highly likely to increase the number and broaden the range of training providers, and to provoke new models of training, including online provision. However, we strongly recommend a range of measures to advance diversity under this new system. The SRA publicly welcomed the research’s thoughtful and constructive approach and used our recommendations to shape the introduction of the SQE.

You can read the summary report here.

University tuition fees: what is a fair deal for students?

The Bridge Group joined with HEPI to convene a seminar on university tuition fees. Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI, chaired a discussion with Professor Claire Callender, Paul Johnson, Baroness Wolf of Dulwich, and Lord David Willetts. The seminar covered a range of themes and gave particular attention to: the sharp fall in part-time undergraduate participation since the funding reforms of 2012 and the need to address this; providing a wider range of higher education options to support the labour market and student choice; and measuring students’ learning gain.

You can read a summary of our discussion and recommendations here.

Social mobility and university careers services

This report places attention on uneven graduate outcomes by social background. It situates the work of careers services at the heart of higher education activity to advance social equality. It offers new evidence, exposing the complex factors causing gaps in outcomes, and draws on practitioner expertise to identify practicable solutions, both for individual universities and the wider higher education sector. These range from embedding careers provision in the curriculum to reforming league tables to acknowledge institutional activity to promote social mobility.

You can read the report here.

2016

Seminar series on graduate outcomes: policy recommendations

We held three policy seminars to investigate challenges facing graduates from lower socio-economic backgrounds in progressing to employment. Dr Daniel Laurison, Dr Sam Friedman, Dr Louise Ashley and Prof Anna Vignoles exposed issues such as lower earnings for such students, all else being equal, and differential career outcomes. Prof Deborah Eyre and Tom Banham explored the need to establish a clear and common understanding of the term ‘employability’ and whether developing soft skills aids career success. The seminars outlined how schools, universities, and employers can address these issues.

You can read a summary of our discussion and recommendation here.

Inspiring policy: graduate outcomes and social mobility

Social inequality is reproduced in both higher education and the professions. This report highlights the importance of a joined-up, collaborative approach to improve the graduate outcomes of individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds. We share insights from a range of colleagues (representing the higher education, charity, and employer sectors) to expose the key challenges affecting progression amongst individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds and identify solutions. We offer challenge and debate and highlight where policy innovation is required to catalyse change.

You can read the report here.