The Uni Connect programme delivered by AccessHE has worked with hundreds of pupils in London’s higher education cold spots with promising early signs of impact.
AccessHE, the pan-London network supporting young people from underrepresented groups in the capital to enter higher education, has since 2017 been working with school pupils in north east London through the Uni Connect Programme (formerly the National Collaborative Outreach Programme). Uni Connect is an Office for Students-funded network of hubs across England offering impartial advice, guidance and activities on the benefits and realities of higher education in college and university.
To date the AccessHE hub has supported over 700 pupils in years 9-13 at schools in Barking & Dagenham and Havering, providing them with insights into a range of subjects at HE-level and equipping them with the soft skills to thrive on their chosen course of study. A core feature of the work has been collaboration with local universities and employers, with pupils having the chance to visit campuses and see what university life is like for themselves, and hear directly from professionals in different sectors about where their degrees have taken them.
The Uni Connect programme grew out of a government commitment to widen access to higher education by directing targeted support and funding towards areas identified as having lower than expected rates of HE progression based on GCSE results. As overall levels of participation in HE are high in the capital, the initial challenge for AccessHE was to identify those most likely to benefit from working with its hub, who tended to be dispersed across different schools and local authority areas.
To ensure its offer was appropriately tailored to the London context, AccessHE worked closely with a select number of schools to build bespoke outreach programmes. In this way the hub could both meet the needs of schools (for instance through offering support with the UCAS process and with course choices) and offer a learner-centred approach to exploring higher education choices. The progressive nature of the programmes that were developed has meant that participating pupils could engage intensively with different facets of college and university over successive weeks. The result has been a marked increase in knowledge amongst AccessHE learners about what they can study at HE level, and about the process of applying to university.
This is particularly true of the year 13 pupils who undertake a multi-session programme through the AccessHE hub before beginning their final A-level exams. Of this year’s year 13 cohort, 100% said after completing the programme that they felt more knowledgeable about their HE study options, and 65% said they would most likely continue onto some form of HE study.
One year 13 pupil who took part in the AccessHE outreach sessions in autumn term of 2019, said of the programme:
‘Doing things like this has made me more confident about going to university. I don’t know anyone in my family who has been so I couldn’t speak to anyone. Talking about it was good … I’ve taken a lot from the sessions on university life and on interviews.’
Another pupil praised the format of the programme:
‘Because of the support, you don’t feel as alone as you would if you were trying to search information online by yourself. Being in a group and having contact with someone who is experienced really does help you, so I’d advise people to come and do the course.’
A video capturing the year 13 learners’ impressions of the AccessHE Uni Connect programme is available to watch on the AccessHE website, here.
For further information contact Dr Richard Boffey, Deputy Head of AccessHE, on 020 7391 0685 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. AccessHE is a partner of the Uni Connect programme funded by the Office for Students. The Office for Students is the independent regulator for higher education in England. Our aim is to ensure that every student, whatever their background, has a fulfilling experience of higher education that enriches their lives and careers.
2. The Ofs Uni Connect Programme provides impartial advice and guidance on college and university. From taster days to real-life projects with national companies, Uni Connect gives those who aren’t sure if college or university is for them a new perspective on higher education. Across England, Uni Connect’s local hubs help 1,613 schools and colleges, offering impartial advice, guidance and activities to over 180,000 young people and their parents or carers. Each hub works with local universities and colleges to inspire young people with the confidence to find a path to higher education which is right for them.
3. A key division of London Higher and the largest collaborative network of its kind, AccessHE is the pan-London organisation supporting under-represented groups throughout their higher education (HE) learner journeys. AccessHE does this by enabling HE institutions (HEIs), schools, colleges and local authorities to achieve their objectives on widening access to HE and delivering improved student outcomes more efficiently and effectively. For more information on AccessHE, please go to https://www.accesshe.ac.uk/.