Ambitious report aims to improve access for all
A University access course has been praised in a new report announcing plans to transform study opportunities for disadvantaged students.
The report - "Pathways for Potential: How universities, regulators and government can tackle educational inequality" - was published by the Russell Group, which represents 24 of the UK’s foremost institutions.
The document sets out a series of commitments, recommendations for government and highlights good examples of practice from institutions throughout the UK.
The report outlines work done by Edinburgh to improve opportunities and widen participation.
The University’s Access Programme – a part-time course launched in 2018 to help adults from disadvantaged backgrounds to return to study – was featured as a positive example.
The programme, which has seen the first 50 participants receive conditional offers for undergraduate study, is one of many initiatives offered by Edinburgh to encourage students of all ages and backgrounds to apply.
Nobody has been left unscathed by the Covid-19 pandemic and we know our learners from underrepresented groups are experiencing intense challenges. Students who lack family support and mature learners with caring responsibilities are finding it particularly tough at the moment. We are providing support for all of our learners, but this new report reminds us all that more work is needed.
The report’s authors propose a three-pronged approach to tackle inequality throughout the education system.
They suggest universities need to diversify their campuses and support their students to reach their potential.
Regulatory incentives should also be in place to support further progress and ensure universities can widen their pool of applicants from disadvantaged and under-represented backgrounds.
They also advise that work is needed to tackle inequality throughout the education system, beginning with primary school aged children.
Educational inequality undermines the pipeline of talent into the UK’s world-class universities. Russell Group universities will continue to do their part, but breaking down the barriers created by educational inequality that start early in life is not a job for universities alone.
Help during Covid-19
Despite the disruption to school and university teaching, Edinburgh has adapted to the crisis by continuing to offer as much support as possible for disadvantaged students locally and nationally, maintaining contact with secondary school teachers and individuals by phone and online.
The Sutton Trust summer school, which offers state-funded school pupils from across the UK the chance to spend a week experiencing life as a student at Edinburgh, will this year run as a virtual programme.
The University’s staff-student mentoring project for students who have spent time in care will also continue for all care-experienced students at the University, ensuring support is on-hand for those who need it most.
Financial assistance is also being made available to help offset costs incurred during the crisis. The funds can be used to cover exceptional expenditure incurred in relation to accommodation, subsistence and travel.