Access elite: Strathclyde University

January 18, 2002

Academic staff: 1,9
Undergraduates: 10,892 (Home: 10,2)
Postgraduates: 2,098 (Home: 1,771)

Pamela Brown, who is in the third year of a BA in psychology, came to Strathclyde University from a school in Glasgow's east end that gave pupils no encouragement to go on to higher education. But she has found the encouragement she needs from Strathclyde, starting with a free pre-university summer school for those who might need to boost school examination grades.

"I didn't know that much about higher education. I did biology, psychology, sociology and philosophy. I focused more on psychology and decided that sociology wasn't for me," she said. "When I began first year, it was really great because I knew my way around and knew the library and computer systems."

Strathclyde has been adept at pulling together funds to promote student recruitment and retention: coming from a deprived area, Ms Brown has an annual scholarship of up to £1,000.

Strathclyde has acknowledged the complexity of student finance by offering advice and support through a discrete student finance office.

But John Martin, director of student affairs, stressed that students dropped out for a "cocktail of reasons", rarely because of money alone.

Strathclyde has a range of support services, working closely with the students' union. New staff are inducted on an academic counselling scheme, and each student has not only a director of studies but an academic counsellor as a first level of pastoral care. Wider access has been part of Strathclyde's ethos for many years. It launched a pre-entry evening course for people with no qualifications in 1985.

Successful students can enter not only arts and social sciences but also the business and law schools.

Access coordinator Imelda Devlin said the key was support and sensitivity from staff throughout a student's course.

"You can come up with access strategies but they have to be backed up by the attitudes students meet when they come here," she said.

Strathclyde has strong staff development schemes and was the first pre-1992 university to win Investors in People status. There are long-standing management courses for new heads of department. Pro vice-principal Susan Shaw said good management underpinned research excellence, and gave staff a clear view of what was to be achieved.

"For two years, we have been running a very innovative staff development programme, 'Leaders for Tomorrow', usually for younger professors whom we see as the deans and vice-principals of the future."

Guide to THES access elite stories

   Scaling the heights: THES access elite table
  Poor face a steep climb
  Jacks of all trades pave the  way to participation
  Leader: Institutions hold trump cards in widening access
  Sheffield Hallam university
  Stirling university
  Institutions attacked for bias against poor
  Hard-up white men continue to elude recruiters
  US offers cash to lure poor to college

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