Sending Newcastle University students into schools to raise the aspirations of young people has been highlighted as an example of good practice by the national organisation responsible for promoting fair access to higher education.
The initiative, where undergraduate students have the opportunity to work as tutors in the region’s schools, was today highlighted by the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) as a shining example of how universities can help to raise aspirations and attainment among those with the talent to benefit from higher education.
Supporting over 8,500 pupils and teachers in the region’s schools, the ‘Students into Schools’ scheme was also designed to improve the employability skills of the students engaged in the work and each year, around 180 Newcastle University students participate in the programme.
Recognition for the scheme coincides with the approval by OFFA of the Newcastle University 2015 Access Agreement. The approval of an annual Access Agreement is a requirement for institutions wanting to charge a Home undergraduate fee above the £6,000 basic level.
Lucy Backhurst, Newcastle University’s Head of Undergraduate Recruitment and Admissions, said: “This is great news for the University. Our focus in this Access Agreement is not just about getting the students in, but supporting them throughout their course, and developing the skills they need to succeed in work or further study.
In all the outreach work we do, we’re making best use of our greatest assets - our own students and Alumni. It was really encouraging that OFFA recognised the Students into Schools programme in their report where current students work in schools across the region for academic credit. It’s a simple idea that’s a win-win for the pupils, the teachers and our own students.”
Newcastle University has an excellent record of widening participation (WP) in the North East of England, which has the lowest rate of participation in higher education in England, and last year saw the highest ever intake of WP students.
University staff have been working for more than 20 years with schools and colleges to raise the aspirations of young people and promote progression and flexible access to university.
In this latest Access Agreement, the University re-confirmed its commitment to widening participation and fair access, setting out its key priorities for 2015, which include:
- Increasing outreach with schools and colleges
- Expanding the PARTNERS Programme nationally
- Leading national and regional collaborative schemes (Realising Opportunities and the Raising Aspiration Partnership)
- Helping current students develop employability skills and get jobs on campus
- Providing generous financial support to students from low income families.
Across the higher education sector as a whole, Access Agreements for 2015-16 show significantly greater investment in work by universities and colleges to raise aspirations and attainment by students from disadvantaged backgrounds and then support these students to succeed in their studies and progress to employment or postgraduate study. Spending in this area has increased by 33 per cent, from £243 million to £323 million.
Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, said: “These new access agreements commit the whole sector to significant and sustained work that should make a lasting impact.
“Higher education offers life-changing opportunities and it’s important that people from all backgrounds are able to access these opportunities. This new set of access agreements will help to ensure that access to higher education is based on talent, not background.”
published on: 24 July 2014