City and Islington College

November 18, 1994

Black media figures including Trevor Phillips and Moira Stewart are closely involved with City and Islington College's ground-breaking efforts to encourage young people from the ethnic minorities in a deprived inner-city area to enter higher education.

Successful professionals from the ethnic minorities are key players in the college's mentor scheme, one of three pioneering projects which contributed to the college's achievement in sending a record 900 students into higher education in 1994.

The mentor project was based on ideas from the United States where it was acknowledged that low self-esteem in young black men and women prevented them from fulfilling their potential. The mentors act as role models, helping raise young people's aspirations and improving their educational performance and progression.

The connect scheme is designed to help students growing up in difficult circumstances and whose abilities are not reflected in their exam results. Its underlying philosophy is that potential students from the ethnic minorities face multiple hurdles to entry to higher education, hurdles which present less of an obstacle to white, middle-class students.

Connect is intended to ease the path, in careful partnership with a group of universities which has grown from just one -- the then Polytechnic of North London -- to 12. College staff write reports on potential students and, says Andrew Morris, City and Islington's director of marketing, who is closely involved with the schemes, "the universities trust us and give them special consideration".

Every effort is made to make the application and preparation process as student-friendly as possible. But, Mr Morris emphasises: "This is not positive discrimination but an attempt to remove or reduce obstacles to admission."

In 1975 one of the college's campuses -- it was formed by merger in 1992 -- pioneered access courses offering a second chance to people over 21. Now almost every college in the country has followed the example of a close partnership with linked universities offering strong educational support which has enabled hundreds of mature students from City and Islington alone to gain degrees in subjects ranging from radiography to English literature.

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