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University works to raise aspirations

A look at the work Middlesex staff and students do to widen participation in Higher Education in the light of a new report.

“Careers circuses” student ambassadors and workshops for school pupils with real potential are all tools used at Middlesex University to get young people thinking about higher education.

A report just released by the higher education funding body for England has concluded there has been a “substantial increase” in entry into higher education from those with disadvantaged backgrounds since the mid-2000s.

The report by Dr Mark Corver of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) concluded there were many reasons for this increased participation, including spending on education and demographic changes.

But Middlesex can point to several initiatives it believes have widened participation in higher education by helping to demystify university for young people and inspiring them to explore it as an option, even if they had never thought of it before, or no one in their family has gone to university.

The University’s own students act as Student Associates, working in schools for short periods as teaching assistants.  As well as gaining valuable experience themselves, they can use this government funded initiative to talk to students directly about higher education and its benefits.

Middlesex, part of the London West Central and North Aimhigher partnership (WECAN) also works with pupils from local schools in Year 6 to Year 13.  The University has an Outreach scheme and Education Liaison Service which raise awareness of higher education as an option for those who would not automatically think of it.

Outreach sees University staff and students visiting schools to set up various events including a “careers circus” and workshops.  Outreach manager Cobi Campbell said: “The Outreach team works with students between the ages of 10 and 16, aiming to raise their awareness and aspirations.

She added: “By giving pupils a direct experience of a university we hope to demonstrate that Higher Education is accessible.

“Our newest in-school project is the Careers Circus where pupils partake in a carousel of workshops which provide a short insight into the various careers and pathways available within certain subject areas.”

The Education Liaison team encourages young people to apply for university in much the same way and focuses on work with Year 12 and 13 students.

They also run special projects like Skills for Success.  Education Liaison manager Elita Eliades-Ahmed explains: “These are students who their teachers say have the potential to do very, very well but need to work on their academic skills.  We work with them in small groups, supporting them for a year, with different workshops on areas like analytical and presentation skills.”

Steph Betts, who represents the Aimhigher WECAN partnership at the University, said: “Middlesex is committed to widening participation in higher education and to encouraging young people to aspire to a university education, no matter their background or previous expectations.”


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