Press Office


Universities collaborate to support fair access


A major national scheme to help under-represented groups get into top universities is to be expanded.

Realising Opportunities, led by Newcastle University, is an award-winning collaboration of leading universities, promoting fair access to higher education and encouraging social mobility. The scheme has so far worked with over 1,500 students.

Goldsmiths, University of London, the University of Sheffield and the University of Sussex have joined the scheme, which targets able students from groups who may not traditionally choose to go to university.

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science said: “The expansion of Realising Opportunities is good news, and will help even more young people from less advantaged backgrounds benefit from the transformational experience of higher education.

“It is important that young people, regardless of their backgrounds, are inspired to be ambitious as they consider studying at university. Programmes like this raise aspirations and attainment, which is why we encourage universities to invest in this type of outreach.”

Realising Opportunities was established in 2009, funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England and since August 2012 has been fully funded by the partner universities. By working together the group aims to raise awareness and understanding of research intensive universities and encourage academically able young people from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds to increase their aspirations.

As part of the scheme year 12 and 13 students access events, activities and support specifically designed to increase their likelihood of applying to and succeeding at a research intensive university. 

The Programme has a strong academic component and is recognised by most participating universities as counting towards UCAS points. Students attend a National Student Conference where they take a tailored programme of workshops, such as student finance and study skills, to suit their needs.  Students can take part in a range of events such as subject taster days, masterclasses and summer schools available at all partner universities.  Throughout the programme the students receive the support of an undergraduate ementor who provides ongoing information about Realising Opportunities and higher education.

Professor Ella Ritchie, Deputy Vice Chancellor at Newcastle University, and chair of the Realising Opportunities Partnership, said: “The group of universities involved in Realising Opportunities is committed to raising aspirations and getting more young people to think about applying to research intensive universities.

“It is great news that three new universities are joining the scheme, as it will enable us to reach even more young people who may not have thought about applying to university.”

One student who has taken advantage of the scheme is Naazia Hussein, who attended Joseph Chamberlain Sixth Form College in Birmingham. Now in the second year of her Law LLB at the University of Leicester, Naazia works as an ementor for Realising Opportunities, and said: “The Realising Opportunities Partnership encouraged me to apply to the leading universities in the country which are also well known for being research intensive institutions. I received great support from the team and my ementor during the two years.

“The RO scheme aims to break down social barriers enabling bright students to receive the support and acknowledgement they deserve. Hence, the new additions to the RO family will, without a doubt, strengthen the programme as a whole and its support of students on their road to Higher Education and ultimately their future.”

The Partnership is delighted that its first expansion will bring additional expertise to Realising Opportunities and will allow a greater number of students to be supported.

published on: 5 August 2013