Innovative scheme helps Birmingham identify hidden potential

April 11, 2003

In an innovative approach to widening participation, the University of Birmingham approaches state schools and asks them to recommend pupils who might benefit from higher education, writes Alison Goddard.

Staff ask schools to complete supplementary forms for applicants. Admissions tutors then consider this information alongside each candidate's regular application made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.

Those who are accepted on the scheme are made two offers: one as set out in the prospectus; and a second offer reduced by two grades, typically BCC rather than BBB, or by 40 Ucas tariff points for courses that accept qualifications other than A level.

The second offer is valid only if candidates complete a module called foundations of learning and information skills.

The first part of this module concentrates on learning styles and study skills and involves the student coming to the university for two days, and completing a learning diary and learning plan after the exams.

The second part consists of an assignment agreed between the applicant and a university tutor.

Kevin Whitston, head of the widening participation unit at Birmingham, said: "We work with schools and colleges to identify people from under-represented groups - which is all of those in state schools and colleges - and we ask our colleagues in schools and colleges to help us target the most disadvantaged among them."

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