Issue date: 01 June 2012
Conference review by Meenal Odedra, Journalism student at UWE
Wednesday 30 May saw the Changing Face of Higher Education conference take place. Organised by the Schools and Colleges Partnership Service, the conference offered a platform for delegates to hear from guest speakers, Wes Streeting and Mary Curnock-Cook, probe further into questions surrounding higher education, and take part in various workshops exercising their knowledge on widening participation within Higher Education.
As a third year student, I have felt the debt of university daunting, and no doubt I would have had second thoughts should I have applied this year due to the rising tuition fees. It was more than encouraging to hear about the help and support available for students of all backgrounds, who are looking into higher education.
Wes Streeting, Chief Executive of the Helena Kennedy Foundation, commented on the future of higher education, “My biggest fear over the next five years of widening participation of non traditional backgrounds is there is a risk of people being deterred by fees, especially mature students, and people who can really use that second chance in education”.
He added, “That's why universities, schools and colleges are working together so people aren't deterred further”. Wes went on to explain the importance of conferences such as 'The Changing Face of Higher Education'. “It's really important that people understand what's happening in the higher education sector, what the options are, and bringing people together means that they'll be better informed and so they can inform others better”.
Wes detailed the many paths students may take: “They shouldn't be thinking that university is the only option available to people, there are fantastic apprenticeships, vocational courses, a whole range of options available to you. So my advice is look at all the options, and don't feel that going to university is the be all and end all”.
Many of Wes's points were reiterated by Mary Curnock-Cook, Chief Executive of UCAS: “The first piece of advice I'd give is remember you're making a personal investment. It's not just a student loan, but three or four years of one's life”. When commenting on how support for students who decide to continue studying has changed, Mary suggested that “there is access to higher education for more people now. Advice and guidance have stepped up compared to the past”.
Fay Croft, Director of the Schools and Colleges Partnership Service, told me, “One of the most important things about a conference like this is that it gives an opportunity to learn first hand from our colleagues in our partner schools and colleges about how we can work together to benefit future and current students”. This was echoed by many of the delegates, who all voiced their praise for the event.
I went away with the huge burden of university debt stress off my shoulders. It was very encouraging to see that the University of the West of England and its partnering schools and colleges are going to great lengths to ensure students from all backgrounds are ready for the next step in higher education.
See the flickr gallery for the Changing Face of Higher Education conference.