We caught up with Eila Limpin, Graduate Intern in the Widening Participation team at the University of Sussex, to reflect on the challenges facing the institution and their partner schools in the current climate, as well gain an insight into how Sussex are engaging their student ambassadors for an exciting new HE outreach project. If you’d like your HEI to feature in the future, please contact us.
Who are you?
Hi! My name’s Eila Limpin and I currently work for the Widening Participation team at the University of Sussex. I joined the WP team in August 2019 as the Graduate Intern, but I had previously worked for the team as a WP Student Ambassador throughout my degree. I really enjoy working with young people and providing them with advice and guidance – and supporting them on whatever path they choose to embark upon – so I hope to stay in the sector for the foreseeable future.
What is your institution’s connection to AccessHE?
My line manager, Mandy Cudby, and I attend AccessHE Action Forums to share best practice with colleagues across the sector. Mandy chairs the AccessHE Student Ambassador Forum, which I also attend as I assist in the line management of our ninety student ambassadors. I also attend the AccessHE BAME Forum, as this is a group I particularly want to work with. I want to be able to support BAME students as much as possible, being a BAME graduate myself.
What are some of the challenges your team has faced during lockdown, and concerns you have been hearing from widening participation student groups and their influencers on the ground?
One of the major challenges our team has faced is how we can sustain communication with our partner schools, specifically our WP students. At the moment, teachers are really busy prioritising the wellbeing of their students and teaching from home, so we are thinking about how we can support our partner schools in this climate. We have been quite active on our social media pages, especially on our Twitter page – @sussexfirstgen if you would like to have a look! – where our ambassadors have been creating videos for students. One of our ambassadors has created a video on ‘how to manage your finances at university and other budgeting tips!’, which will be a huge help for year 13 students who are transitioning into their first year. Lastly, as we are starting to deliver more content online, we recognise that not all students will have access to technology, and we have to be mindful of this too. As everything is moving online, we have also been adapting our safeguarding practices to this new online environment to ensure that all training and other events are delivered safely and correctly.
How do you see outreach provision in Higher Education looking in the foreseeable future?
A lot of our school partners currently have their hands full with helping students access their online learning resources and preparing to reopen with new social distancing rules. So, we’re not going to be engaging with young people through their teachers in the current climate. Individual relationships between young people and our team are therefore more important than ever and we’ve been working on our communication channels to provide information, advice and guidance to as many young people as possible. This is why we have launched our ‘Ask a Student’ tool in conjunction with Unibuddy!
Can you share some innovative practice your institution has been trialling? How is it going so far?
We have just launched our ‘Ask a Student’ project with Unibuddy, which we are using as a primarily WP-focussed tool in order to reach our most underrepresented students, and to inform them about university and life at Sussex. We currently have nine WP student ambassadors who have been extensively trained to answer questions from prospective students. Once the students sign up to our platform to ask questions, we input their data on the Higher Education Access Tracker (HEAT) so that we can track their journey into HE, if they choose to do so. Our ambassadors also write blogs, where they talk about their own experiences as a WP student – some of these examples include what it’s like to be a care leaver student at university, an Article 26 scholar, what it’s like to be a mature student at university etc. This is a new project that has been recently launched, so we’re really excited to see it progress and we are looking forward to engaging students through live events especially during our summer school.
Check out our ‘Ask a Student’ feature here! https://www.sussex.ac.uk/about/access-to-education/ask-a-student