Issue date: 18 October 2004

ISSUE DATE: 18/10/04

Young people from the most marginal groups in society including those in local authority care, young offenders, refugees, asylum seekers and travellers are amongst those with a slim chance of accessing a university education. Reasons for this vary for each group but key to non attendance is lack of aspiration due to practical and financial setbacks as well as the fact that these groups have limited family support networks and carers are not always well informed about opportunities.

The University of the West of England has been awarded £72,000 for research and development work to encourage young people from these marginal groups to attend university.

The funding is being provided by the government’s AimHigher programme, which aims to boost university entry from groups that would not normally consider it to be an option. Aside from those in local authority care, the project will also work with young offenders, refugees, asylum seekers and members of the traveller community across the South West. It is a collaborative project involving a number of other universities in the region.

Neil Harrison, Head of Information, Projects and Research in the Centre for Student Affairs, has initiated the project: “There are many bright and talented individuals amongst these groups who could study at university. It’s not just a case of raising their educational aspirations; there are also big practical difficulties to overcome. For example, most students go back to live with their families over the summer holidays, but that’s just not possible for a young person who has been in care. Financial support for these students is also much more complicated and they need expert guidance to find their way through the maze.”

“The problem is that the professionals that work with these groups are generally not well-informed about higher education, while university staff do not have sufficient contact with them to fully understand the problems they face. This project aims to bridge that gap, as well as to share existing expertise across the region.”

“The University has a strong commitment to supporting the local community and it’s important to remember that this isn’t simply a recruitment exercise. The project will be helping people from across the South West to access higher education, regardless of where they choose to study.”

Sue Hatt (regional manager of AimHigher in the South West) said; “This programme will be a valuable addition to AimHigher in the South West. The AimHigher programme already targets young people in schools, colleges and the workplace. Raising awareness of higher education amongst care leavers, young offenders, refugees, asylum seekers and members of the traveller community across the South West will extend our work to reach some of the most marginalised groups in society”.

The project is initially scheduled to last 18 months. It will provide training opportunities for both the professionals that work with these marginal groups, such as social workers and careers advisers, as well as for university admissions and support staff. There will also be an information website and helpline for prospective students, as well as a programme of research into existing work and events to share good practice from across the region. The University is currently seeking to appoint a project co-ordinator and work will begin in earnest early in 2005.


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