The University of Bedfordshire is working with young males from deprived areas of the county in new half-million pound widening participation project to improve access to university.
The new scheme is part of the Higher Education Funding Council of England’s (HEFCE) new National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP), a ￡60 million funded project to increase participation in higher education across England.
Bedfordshire has teamed up with the University of Hertfordshire and other education providers in the region to create the Aspire Higher consortium to deliver the NCOP in deprived wards across the two counties with ￡534,000 funding from HEFCE.
Prof Helen Bailey Executive Dean of Academic Partnerships who leads Bedfordshire’s widening participation activity said: “One of the main priorities for the consortium is developing an out-of-school outreach activity plan that is particularly being targeted at young males from deprived areas of the county.
“This is to reflect national and local concerns about the numbers of boys in this demographic accessing Higher Education (HE) as outlined by the Government and HEFCE.”
Emma Greening, Head of Outreach and Widening Participation at the University of Hertfordshire, said: ‘This programme is an excellent way for the both Universities to improve access to higher education for those that need it the most in wards across both Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.
As well as the schools and outreach programme a Youth Advisory Panel will also be formed to ensure the students who are being targeted also have a voice that will be heard in the consortium.
Emma added: “The Youth Advisory Panel will be fundamental in ensuring that the Consortium’s activities are designed to be engaging for this cohort. The Panel will also be encouraged to work closely with each other and keep in touch between meetings.”
The programme will also provide support for the delivery of additional qualifications to help boost the confidence of pupils who might not necessarily think about extending their stay in education beyond school.
The extracurricular activity, such as the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) and City and Guilds courses, will also improve students’ interest in studying and increase their UCAS tariff scores, boosting their chances of getting into university.
Emma said: “Allowing the students to take additional qualifications and short courses will build their confidence and improve their ability to achieve and inspire intellectual curiosity.”
The Aspire Higher consortium will be based upon an existing relationship between the University of Hertfordshire and the University of Bedfordshire with institutions forming a partnership to address the areas detailed by HEFCE.
HEFCE Director of Policy Chris Millward said: “NCOP represents a significant investment by HEFCE in improving the life chances of young people in some of our most disadvantaged communities. Our evidence has shown that there are young people in these areas who are achieving the qualifications they need to benefit from higher education, but are not currently doing so.”
Under the scheme, 29 local consortia will receive funding. The programme will launch on 24 January 2017. A total of 260 higher education providers in England are involved in the programme.
Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said: “We are seeing record numbers of disadvantaged young people going to university and benefitting from the real opportunities that our world class universities can offer. This funding and the schemes that have been developed by universities will make a real difference to young people in key areas.”
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