Social mobility champion to be honoured at Graduation
By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Monday, 20 January 2020
Former Labour cabinet minister Rt Hon Alan Milburn, who will be conferred an Honorary Doctor of the University at the University of Sussex winter graduation on Thursday 23 January 2020, has been a champion for social mobility and widening participation throughout his career.
From 2012 until 2017 he was the Chair of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, during which time he gave the Brighton and Sussex Medical School public invited lecture, ‘Mind the gap. How to solve Britain’s social mobility problem’.
Alan, who was MP for Darlington from 1992 to 2010, has frequently highlighted the issues and causes behind social inequality and their disturbing consequences.
“It has become increasingly obvious that ours is a country where, all too often, demography defines destiny,” he says. “Poor schools ease people into poor jobs. Disadvantage and advantage cascade down the generations. Over decades, we have become a wealthier society but we have struggled to become a fairer one. Whole sections of society feel they are not getting a fair chance to succeed.”
In 2019 he became the Chair of the Social Mobility Foundation (SMF), a charity that aims to make a practical improvement in social mobility for young people from low-income backgrounds. As well as extending support to students throughout university across 11 career sectors (Accountancy, Architecture, Banking and Finance, Biology and Chemistry, Business, Digital, Engineering and Physics, Law, Media and Communications, Medicine, or Politics) the SMF programmes support young people wherever they live in the UK.
Alan believes that social mobility can be a rallying point to prove that modern capitalist economies are capable of creating better, fairer and more inclusive societies. “It is the best antidote to the growth of political populism, both of Right and Left, that we are witnessing across the world,” he says. “In my view, it’s the defining issue of our age.”
During his time in the cabinet, Alan served as Chief Secretary to the Treasury (1998–99), Secretary of State for Health (1999–2003), and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (2004–05). He retired from politics in 2010 and has gone on to pursue a successful business career, working with corporations and governments across the world. He became Chancellor of Lancaster University in 2015.