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Newcastle University gets go-ahead to improve access for all


Newcastle University's plans to encourage more students from under-represented groups to apply to university have been approved by Government.

The Office for Fair Access (Offa) today announced that it had approved the Access Agreement submitted by the University earlier this year.

The agreement includes details of a commitment to spend more than £30m on financial support over the next five years, targeted at those from the lowest income families, as well as new ideas to widen participation in higher education.

Among the new initiatives from Newcastle are schemes to get more A-level students from the North East to consider applying to university, including:

• Use of undergraduate students as tutors and mentors to support specific subject learning  in local schools
• Careers advice and information to students, parents and teachers on choices in higher education
• Offering the use of University premises to local schools, for example laboratories and other academic facilities and venues for awards ceremonies

Newcastle University will also increase its widening participation efforts in the rest of the country. This will be through an extension of the PARTNERS programme, which gives students from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to study at Newcastle with a differentiated offer of slightly lower A-Levels, plus an assessed summer school , and Realising Opportunities, a national network which is led by Newcastle. The University will also;

• Invest in web, social media and digital developments to support UK-wide outreach to students who may be difficult to reach face-to-face
• Work with the  Students’ Union to involve current students and recent alumni with their former school /college
• Increase the number of graduate ambassadors, who are employed by the university o carry out out-reach work with schools and colleges across the country.

Professor Ella Ritchie, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Newcastle University, said: "We continue to take widening access very seriously at Newcastle University and we are making real efforts to raise the expectations of students from disadvantaged backgrounds to apply to a top class research intensive university such as Newcastle.

"The fact that OFFA have accepted our agreement shows that they believe the University is making great efforts in this area and are supportive of us doing more, particularly outside our own region where our track-record is already very strong.  Latest figures show that over 90% of our students coming from the NE are from state schools and colleges."

One student who has been supported is Luke McVitie from Hartlepool. Luke is the first member of his family to go to university and has just graduated with degree in History. He wants to join the RAF after being part of the University Air Squadron.

Luke, 21, said: "It was a bit nerve wracking applying to university as no one in my family had been before but the PARTNERS programme definitely helped. I loved every minute of my time at Newcastle. Going to university is not just about what you do in the classroom. I played a lot of sport, football, athletics, table tennis and I also joined the Air Squadron. That meant I could fly planes from RAF Leeming and I also got officer training. I just wouldn’t have been able to do things like that if I hadn’t gone to university.

"My only regret is that there isn’t enough time to take advantage of all the extra opportunities that going to university can give you."

published on: 11 July 2013