Education and Social Mobility 

Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, the family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no-one to ensure the children received an education. When a brother got himself into college and came back with news of the world beyond the mountain, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. She taught herself enough mathematics, grammar and science to take the ACT and was admitted to Brigham Young University. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. She has written about her life in the widely praised Educated.

Laura Gardiner (Research Director, Resolution Foundation) specialises in intergenerational issues and has for the past two years worked on a report [] exploring the issues of fairness in a society where the young are unlikely to achieve the progress that their predecessors have.

Together with Margaret Heffernan they discuss the role education has to play in a world where millennials, despite being the best-educated generation in history, are experiencing low wages with no income progression and higher housing costs, resulting in less accumulated wealth. What does this mean for a society that relies on an intergenerational contract to function?


Laura Gardiner is the research director at the Resolution Foundation[]. Her work at the Foundation has focused on analysis of the labour market, including pay trends, self-employment and the social care workforce. She now specialises in intergenerational issues, and is secretary to the Intergenerational Commission. Prior to joining the Resolution Foundation she spent four years at the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion, where she worked on unemployment, young people, welfare reform and housing. She studied social and political sciences at Cambridge University before completing a master’s degree in public policy at Brown University in the USA.

Margaret Heffernan is an entrepreneur, chief executive and author. She worked in BBC Radio for five years where she wrote, directed, produced and commissioned dozens of documentaries and dramas. As a television producer, she made documentary films for Timewatch, Arena and Newsnight, among other programmes. She also produced music videos. Leaving the BBC, she ran the trade association IPPA, which represented the interests of independent film and television producers. In 1994 she returned to the US where she served as chief executive officer for InfoMation Corporation, ZineZone Corporation and iCAST Corporation, and was named one of the Top 100 Media Executives by The Hollywood Reporter, among other accolades. Her books include The Naked Truth: A Working Woman’s Manifesto About Business and What Really Matters, Women on Top: How Female Entrepreneurs are Changing the Rules for Business Success, Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril and Beyond Measure: The Big Impact of Small Changes. Follow her on Twitter @M_Heffernan

Tara Westover was born in Idaho in 1986. She received her BA from Brigham Young University in 2008 and was subsequently awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She earned an MPhil from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 2009, and in 2010 was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. She returned to Cambridge, where she was awarded a PhD in history in 2014. Educated is her first book.

Monday 15 October

Laura Gardiner and Tara Westover

£8. £6 concessions, £4.50 FOI partner rate

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