Outreach efforts are too insular, says access chief

Initiatives must reach out to wider audience with success stories and ‘risk-taking’, according to Graeme Atherton

November 14, 2013

Source: Alamy

Closed circle: ‘I don’t know how far’ current efforts will take us

School outreach staff have failed to communicate the importance of getting more pupils from poor backgrounds into higher education, a university access chief has argued.

Accusing universities, schools and outreach practitioners of talking primarily to each other about improving higher education participation rates, Graeme Atherton, head of AccessHE – which organises outreach projects for London universities – urged staff to talk to those outside the “access bubble”.

Speaking at a Westminster Briefing event in London on 7 November, Dr Atherton said he also wanted to see more businesses and students’ unions involved in access initiatives.

“If we continue to speak just to higher education institutions, schools and colleges, I do not know how far it will take us,” he said.

“There has to be an element of risk-taking,” he added, noting that the outreach landscape had changed significantly since the government abolished the national Aimhigher programme, which closed in 2011.

Dr Atherton said the sector’s success in improving the life chances of young people through university was not understood by society at large: “We need to take responsibility for the story of our success – it should be about telling stories, not so much recounting facts and figures.”

Referring to the 50 student case studies in a report, titled Access All Areas, published last month by Universities Scotland, he asked: “That is a powerful piece of work but why don’t we have something like that for England?”

Also speaking at the event, Les Ebdon, director of the Office for Fair Access, unveiled new processes to consolidate both Offa’s access agreements and widening participation reporting to the Higher Education Funding Council for England into a single submission.

By April, universities will have to submit a Strategy for Access and Student Success, which they will have to use to justify receiving widening participation funding from Hefce and to gain Offa approval to charge fees above £6,000.

A new Hefce-Offa joint strategy on access was submitted to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills last month and is likely to be published in early 2014, Professor Ebdon added.

The new strategy would not require universities to spend more on access, Professor Ebdon indicated. “I’m not looking for a further increase in expenditure, but smarter use of institutions’ money,” he said.

Nor would it stifle innovation by prescribing set ways of supporting school pupils to apply to university, he added. “I’m all for institutions trying different things, but they need to evaluate what they are doing.”

jack.grove@tsleducation.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Post-doctoral Research Associate in Chemistry

University Of Western Australia

PACE Data Support Officer

Macquarie University - Sydney Australia

Associate Lecturer in Nursing

Central Queensland University
See all jobs

Most Commented

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations

Mitch Blunt illustration (23 March 2017)

Without more conservative perspectives in the academy, lawmakers will increasingly ignore and potentially defund social science, says Musa al-Gharbi

Michael Parkin illustration (9 March 2017)

Cramming study into the shortest possible time will impoverish the student experience and drive an even greater wedge between research-enabled permanent staff and the growing underclass of flexible teaching staff, says Tom Cutterham