When the adult learning network suggested running a conference, we offered to host it and pay. Napier University thought it was important for outreach. It is about welcoming people into a university campus, which they might feel is not for them, to open it to folks who would not think they would ever go through the doors of a university. We can show them it is not a scary place. Access is not just a question of providing courses, it is demystifying the idea of a university.
The Napier campus is not too far for people to travel, but the west Edinburgh network arranged transport and signing and language interpretation for those who needed it. They also offered a cr che, which we do not have. Because we have a multisite institution, we have a voucher system that students with children under five can use for registered nurseries. But we offer a free 12-week course in learning strategies, which is held at a local library with a free cr che.
We do not just wait for students to come to us, it is up to us to come to them. Tutors from the local learning centre and Napier help students with individual and group work, building students' confidence, helping them manage their time and develop skills in note-taking and essay-writing, and introducing them to computers. People do not need qualifications or to have studied recently. They just need their own interest and enthusiasm. As a result, one student has come to Napier and several have moved on to access courses at Stevenson College. Community education seems to inspire people to keep learning at whatever level.
We would not do a cost-benefit analysis of the conference on how many of the people who turned up then become full-time students at Napier. We would not expect them all to flock to Napier as a first step. They might want evening classes or to go to further education colleges. The day was about raising awareness of the benefits of education for both the individual and the community.
Sue Gruellich is access adviser, Napier University.