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Chair of the Social Mobility Commission appointed

Alun Francis

Today (26 June) Minister for Women and Equalities, Kemi Badenoch, has selected the current Interim Chair of the Social Mobility Commission (SMC), Alun Francis, as the Government's preferred candidate for the position of Chair of the SMC.

  • Minister for Women and Equalities, Kemi Badenoch MP, announces Government’s preferred Social Mobility Commission Chair candidate
  • Alun Francis OBE, the current interim Chair, has been selected as the preferred candidate
  • The Rt Hon Baroness Stowell of Beeston MBE also appointed to the Social Mobility Commission Board

Alun Francis brings with him a wealth of experience. He has won numerous awards as Principal and Chief Executive of Oldham College where he has overseen huge developments, helping the College to garner a reputation for strong teaching and learning.

In his role as both Deputy Chair and Interim Chair of the SMC, Alun has played a vital role in developing the State of the Nation report. The report set a new direction for the work of the SMC, moving away from the notion that social mobility should just be about the “long” upward mobility from the bottom into the top.

The Minister for Women and Equalities will also today appoint the Rt Hon Baroness Stowell of Beeston MBE as a Commissioner on the SMC Board. Baroness Stowell brings with her a broad range of knowledge from her previous roles as a public servant and experience of her own career-path as a non-graduate with technical skills succeeding in a graduate world.

Minister for Women and Equalities, Kemi Badenoch MP, said:

“I am pleased that Alun has agreed to continue his important work, and be appointed Chair of the Commission.

“During his time as Deputy and Interim Chair he has demonstrated the knowledge, skills and expertise which are necessary to lead the Social Mobility Commission, maintaining the organisation’s position as a champion of social mobility across the UK.

“The addition of Baroness Stowell as Commissioner will provide further insight and understanding to the already diverse and accomplished SMC board.”

2023 will see the publication of the next State of the Nation report, in which the SMC will also overlay these metrics by UK regions, and give additional breakdowns by other characteristics including sex, ethnicity and disability. These breakdowns will connect personal characteristics to a place, and can help to inform early thinking about policy solutions.

Chair of the Social Mobility Commission, Alun Francis, said:

“I am honoured and thrilled to be the preferred candidate to Chair the Social Mobility Commission at this very crucial time for our country.

“The Commission has been working hard for two years to build a solid foundation for some new thinking about the focus and priorities of policy.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to bring this work to fruition.  I especially hope to draw on my experience of working in further education, and my knowledge and understanding of so-called ‘left behind’ people and places, to make a positive contribution.”

Social Mobility Commission Commissioner, The Rt Hon Baroness Stowell of Beeston MBE, said:

“I am truly grateful for this opportunity. I look forward to working with my fellow commissioners to champion social mobility, under the leadership of the Chair, Alun Francis.

“The work of the Commission will play a vital role in helping to achieve the Government’s ambition of increasing opportunities for people across the UK, irrespective of their start in life.”

The SMC exists to create a United Kingdom where the circumstances of birth do not determine outcomes in life. It is an independent statutory body (an organisation created by an act of Parliament), established by The Life Chances Act 2010.

Further Information:

These appointments were conducted in accordance with the Governance Code on Public Appointments.

Alun Francis Biography

Alun Francis is the Chair of the Social Mobility Commission and has been Principal and Chief Executive of Oldham College for 13 years. He is due to join Blackpool and the Fylde College as their leader in the summer.

Alun oversaw the redevelopment of Oldham College with an investment of over £45m, with new facilities to support technical education from entry to degree level. The college has developed a reputation for strong teaching and learning, and has won a number of prestigious awards for its Teaching for Distinction CPD programme and its provision for special needs learners. It was nominated Further Education (FE) College of the Year at the 2019 TES Awards and in 2020 for innovation around remote learning.

Prior to joining the college Alun had a varied career in local government, regeneration, youth work and education, including primary, secondary and higher education.

Alun has a strong interest in the economics of what is now referred to as “levelling up” and sees FE colleges in general and Oldham College in particular as having a critical role to play in addressing this challenge.

He received an Order of the Order of the British Empire for service to education in the 2021 New Year’s Honours List.

Baroness Tina Stowell Biography

Baroness Stowell was a civil servant between 1986 and 1996, including at the Ministry of Defence, the British Embassy in Washington and 10 Downing Street. After leaving the civil service she worked in the private sector for a couple of years, mainly in the media sector. She also served as Deputy Chief of Staff to the Leader of the Conservative Party between 1998 and 2001. After working for the Conservative Party, she moved to the BBC and spent time in various roles, including as Head of Corporate Affairs between 2008 and 2010.

She joined the House of Lords as a backbencher in January 2011 and was as Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal from July 2014 until July 2016. As a junior minister she led the landmark Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act through the House of Lords.

Baroness Tina Stowell was Chair of the Charity Commission from February 2018 to February 2021.