UWE Bristol adding value for disadvantaged students

Issue date: 04 June 2015

UWE Bristol

Today the University Alliance (UA), a campaigning group representing 20 pioneering global universities for science, technology, design and the professions practice based universities in the UK, has welcomed the publication of OFFA's annual monitoring of access agreements. The report has revealed that English universities and colleges are on course to meet over 80 per cent of the targets set within their 2013/14 Access Agreements.

The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) is part of the UA group and UWE Bristol Vice-Chancellor Professor Steve West is the current Chair.

Professor West said, “We are wholly committed to the principles set out via the OFFA monitoring report and delighted to highlight that we place social mobility at the centre of our ambition to ensure that under-represented groups are welcomed into our fold. We do this through a whole raft of events, activities, policies, bursaries and funds.

“University education opens doors and we want to be sure that we show all potential students that this is a place that welcomes everyone who wants to contribute to society and develop the skills to take up a useful place in the workplace. At UWE Bristol we want to ensure that everyone who has a desire to learn and to improve their lives and the lives of others through the experience derived at university is able to realise this ambition.”

Katie Jenkins, Associate Director, 'Future Students' at UWE Bristol, said, “We have been very proactive at UWE Bristol to ensure that we more than meet expectations laid down by OFFA to ensure that we are doing all that we can to reach out to under-represented groups and to support those that need extra help to achieve their dreams.”

Some key examples of the work that UWE Bristol has done to improve progression of under-represented groups includes organising more than 500 outreach events using 150 Student Ambassadors, working in excess of 10,000 hours with more than 30,000 learners including 1,300 of primary school age, 10,000 at secondary school pre-16 age, 12,000 16+ and 6,000 adults.

The University has a number of high profile partnerships with key target schools colleges and organisations including the Cabot Learning Federation, Trust in Learning (Academies) and Bristol Enterprise College UTC; Princes Trust; Society of Merchant Venturers, South Bristol Youth, Ablaze and Virtual School Networks across the South West, bringing together 13 HEIs providing support for young people in care and Care Leavers in the region.

Other initiatives include a Heading Higher Passport Plus compact scheme for Years 12 and 13 students from WP backgrounds; 40 registered partner schools leading to 776 applications to UWE from registered learners; support for adult learners with 115 adult learners from 12 partner colleges took part in a practice nursing interview. 25% of these students enrolled at UWE Bristol – average conversion for nursing and midwifery courses is 22%.

One particularly noteworthy project is the Children's University, a critically acclaimed, extra-curricular programme aimed at 7 to 14 year olds and their families. Children's University takes the concept of education far beyond the confines of the classroom, working with children and their families to ignite their passion for learning, to raise their aspirations for the future, to build their self-confidence and to demonstrate the real-world relevance of subjects studied at school thus helping to break the cycle of underachievement which prevents many children from realising their full potential. Children's University achievement is rewarded in a graduation ceremony at Bristol Cathedral.

Another example is the South Bristol Youth Partnership delivering a programme of activities in collaboration with the University of Bristol and South Bristol Youth Trust. The programme, involving 120 students in Years 8, 9 and 10 across six South Bristol Schools, has been designed to increase the personal agency of the young people and their families so they are able to make informed choices about their future. Participating students are challenged in a number of ways to encourage them to consider the many options available to them. Achievement is celebrated annually with Year 8 students attending a graduation ceremony at the University of the West of England.

Di Stone, Widening Participation and Community Engagement Manager, said “We have so many projects designed to support future learners and these are just a small snapshot of the tremendous effort that teams across the university are involved in to raise aspirations and put the seeds of an idea that a university education is attainable and achievable for everyone who has ambition and aspiration.”

Maddalaine Ansell, Chief Executive of University Alliance, said, “Supporting people from non-traditional backgrounds to access and succeed in higher education is a particular strength of our universities. Our intake of students from lower socio-economic groups is higher than the sector average. OFFA's figures demonstrate that beyond access we are helping these students acquire the education and broader skills they need to place them firmly on the path to success.

“We are making a huge contribution to social mobility in the UK - transforming lives and supporting the economy. The government and sector must continue to support the many and not just the few to succeed.”

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