Changing Stories is based on evidence about the impact that the life stories of care-leavers who had gone to university can have on foster carers and other looked-after young people. It builds on research about the importance of diverse stories in widening participation more broadly, as too often young people talk about not being able to identify with university students. However, the reality is that there is huge diversity in the life stories of and pathways to university amongst students, yet these diverse stories are not always accessible to school pupils who may not feel that university is for them.
As part of this project, desk research was carried out which identified similar projects at Bristol and Bournemouth Universities. We are now working together with these two universities to develop a national bid and a symposium about this work has been accepted for BERA this Autumn. A workshop was held at Newcastle University where current students and a consultant from Bristol University were involved in the co-design of the Changing Stories portal. A core team of student ambassadors have recorded an introductory video to the Changing Stories portal and contributed their own life stories. This work has been disseminated and the portal is shortly to be launched through Newcastle Students’ Union.
Since this stage of the project is about consulting with young people in order to create an appropriate context in which diverse life stories can be shared, the difference is best expressed by one of the students taking part (below). The student ambassadors have all been involved in the co-design of the portal through which life stories are shared and there is now a unique, democratic platform in which undergraduates are able to share their stories, which did not exist before. The project has further ESRC IAA funding to launch the portal widely and disseminate directly to schools in the region.
"The changing stories project is incredibly important in allowing school students to recognise the available information that Newcastle University can be accessible to them no matter what their story is. Indeed the individual stories provide essential information that school students can use ultimately so they can feel comfortable about their own situations and understand that this cannot stop them from Newcastle. I believe this particular project will allow students to realise their full capabilities when deciding on university life because it will encourage more students to understand what they once believed were barriers will no longer stop them. As a local university student, this project was excellent for me to be involved in because I want students considering university from the local area to recognise Newcastle is for them no matter their background."
Emily Jobson, Stage 2 History and Politics Student.