Leading London: Anne-Marie Canning, MBE

Anne-Marie Canning is from a working-class family in Yorkshire. Just before beginning university she had an opportunity to attend a summer school at the University of Oxford which had a life-changing effect. She learned early on that opportunities such as this for students from backgrounds similar to hers could lead to great success in life. Today, Anne-Marie Canning, MBE is the Director of Social Mobility and Student Success at King’s. Founded to support King’s commitment to change the world, the Social Mobility and Student Success division works to make sure the brightest minds, regardless of background, have access to quality education and the support they need to succeed. Read our interview with Anne-Marie to learn how she is leading in London to create opportunities for young people.

King’s: Why is social mobility important to London?

AMC: Social mobility is important on three levels. Firstly, young people should be able to make the most of their talents no matter what postcode they are born into. Secondly, a university education is better when it is diverse. And thirdly, society benefits when we have high levels of social mobility – in terms of productivity and trust levels. London has always been a city where people come to make their fortunes – both in their education and careers. We want to make sure it stays open to all those with the potential to benefit from a King’s College London education. Unfortunately, we have a long way to making that a reality in the UK and social mobility is stalling.

King’s: What challenges do you see many students facing when entering higher education?

AMC: Your likelihood of accessing higher education is still closely linked to your postcode. We want to change that. We ensure students have the knowledge, confidence and skills to apply successfully to university. Entering higher education is a time of transition and change. And we know disadvantage does not melt away at the doors of the university. That’s why our work continues to support students once they enrol at King’s College London and through to graduation.

King’s: How is Kings helping to solve those challenges and widen participation?

AMC: In our Vision 2029 strategy King’s says that we will be the ‘top Russell Group university for social mobility and widening participation’. For nearly 7 years we have been running an array of programmes that range from primary school to sixth formers. These programmes are tailored to help students to achieve highly and reach university. We have transformed the face of undergraduate education at King’s with record numbers of students from low socio-economic backgrounds and ethnic minorities. Behind each statistic is an individual student and their community.

King’s: What program(s) are you especially excited about?

AMC: All the programmes we run are innovative and thoughtfully tailored to support participants. We’ve got some long-running programmes such as K+, King’s Scholars and our Sutton Trust Summer Schools that provide vital support to thousands of students each year. Right now, I am really excited about our Parent Power programme that trains local mums, dads and grandparents in educational know-how and organising techniques. They’re a force to be reckoned with and recently won the Guardian Award for Social Impact. I am increasingly interested in how we build programmes with people rather than on their behalf.

King’s: How can our alumni support this mission?

AMC: We’d love for alumni to help us with three things:

- Come and speak to our Parent Power group about your career and educational history. It’s really important for us to share our stories with each other. They give inspiration and build helpful connections for families and students. Email paul.webb@kcl.ac.uk to get involved.

- Sign up to become a mentor for a King’s undergraduate on King’s Connect.

- Follow us on Twitter @KCLWP to keep up to date with our work and help to spread our opportunities amongst your networks.