The Importance of Identity and Visibility In Outreach

When the topic of ‘visibility’ arises in outreach, it is usually to do with raising the profile of students from under-represented groups. Sometimes this manifests in a push for more diverse marketing campaigns, to represent the true (or aspirant) diversity of students at a given institution, or as an initiative within a university to recognise the presence and achievements of groups who fly under the radar.

However, when it comes to student-facing visibility, I believe it is just as important that applicants see diversity in the range of people creating, organising and delivering outreach, too. And not just from students. Read More

Flagging extra learning loss alongside grades will make exams fairer

How do you make exams fair? It’s a challenge that has vexed the greatest education minds for centuries. But never have so many people thought so hard about this question than for national school examinations in 2021.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson last week spoke about putting “fairness into the system” as he unveiled a package of measures for GCSEs and A-levels in England. The measures include advance notice of exam topics, exam aids, and more generous grading (in line with that for 2020). All are justified for pupils who have suffered widespread disruption in the wake of the pandemic. Not least it will provide clarity for teachers about what lies ahead next summer – and for over a million stressed teenagers currently in the midst of their mock exams.

But in my view the biggest question of fairness remains unresolved. How do we recognise the extra learning loss experienced by some pupils, particularly those from the poorest backgrounds? Covid-19 has exposed the stark social class divide that lies outside the school gates. Reduced schooling has left the world an even more unequal place. Read More

Should the UK be moving to post-qualification admissions?

In short: Maybe. But the decision should not be made now.

Periodically, policy makers and UCAS wonder: shall we reform the admissions system? Would a post-qualification admissions (PQA) system be fairer, more efficient – better? Would more disadvantaged students enter selective higher education institutions if we had PQA? These questions are raised at the moment with UCAS and UUK reviewing the issue.

Many countries, indeed many of our European neighbours successfully practise post-qualification admissions. But, one must exercise caution in transposing experiences from one system to another. For example, in a country like Germany – which uses PQA – few courses have restrictions for enrolment or prior attainment. So, the task for students of enrolling themselves at their chosen university tends to be an awful lot simpler than the current selection set up in the UK. Notably, highly competitive courses such as medicine operate pre-qualification admissions even in Germany. Read More

Evaluating Online Outreach During a Global Health Pandemic

It is fair to say that I did not expect to be writing a blog post under this title back in the early weeks and months of 2020, when the weather was terrible and we gleefully shared space and germs. But on reflection, the first part of the title ‘Evaluating online outreach’ should not be so surprising. The transposition of information and guidance for applicants to higher education from face to face settings – such as in schools, on campus or at events – to a virtual setting has been a possibility for a long time. Universities across the world have engaged in remote education practices for some time.  Yet, it has taken the second part of this title ‘a global health pandemic’ to really throw university outreach into the online landscape, and in the case of 2020, to fend for itself. This has forced widening participation, outreach and recruitment teams into new and innovative – and digital – ways of working, and as a consequence has demanded that the evaluations of those activities respond in step. Read More

Why and how the post-Covid world could offer more opportunities for widening participation in England

This blog was first published by HEPI on 16 June 2020

Written by Renata Albuquerque, Sam Dunnett, Annette Hayton, Colin McCaig & Anna Mountford-Zimdars

 

The authors of this blog believe that despite the difficulties we all face in the current circumstances, there are constructive ways forward that allow the post-Covid world to offer more equitable opportunities for young people to access the information they need about higher education. There are some generally acknowledged difficulties, not least, as a recent HEPI blog noted the ‘whole scale experiment in online learning’ revealed differences in engagement between synchronous (live session), blended or asynchronous online learning courses.

Young people from all social backgrounds require access to outreach activities but particularly those without a cultural tradition of higher education study. Evaluation requires re-thinking in the current conditions, but it is essential if we are to maintain and improve quality of provision, particularly of long running programmes. However, here we focus on the digital opportunities, relationships between schools, colleges and higher education institutions that can facilitate this to the greatest extent. Read More

Lessons for adapting home learning from parents with children with special educational needs

By Anna Mountford-Zimdars and Hatice Yildirim, University of Exeter

This blog was first published by BERA (British Educational Research Association) on 8 June 2020.

‘Doing less, making learning fun and looking after everyone’s wellbeing’

Most parents of children with special education needs (SEN) were required or chose to school their children from home during the Covid-19 school closure: children with SEN but without an education, health and care plan were not eligible to staying in schools, and participation in schooling among all groups eligible to participate has been significantly lower than policy models predicted, dropping to 1 per cent of all school children in April 2020. Read More

Widening Participation practitioners wont let COVID-19 closures stop them from delivering HE access activities

This blog was first published on the UCL website, on 26 May 2020

By Professor Anna Mountford-Zimdars, Academic Director of the Centre for Social Mobility, University of Exeter
School closures have led to widely discussed concerns regarding the safety, well-being and attainment and progression of students already considered disadvantaged or at risk. Unfortunately, our newly published paper exploring the impact of lockdown reveals widespread cancellation of widening participation (WP) activities such as face-to-face sessions in schools, residential summer schools and university taster days that are designed to help these pupils progress into Higher Education.Encouragingly, ingenuity has been many practitioners watchword and new modes of delivery are springing up that could preserve some activity in the face of adversity and even create new ways of reaching potential students: after initial cancellations, universities are offering alternative virtual offer-holder or taster days as well as support materials and webinars for students, teachers and parents.

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Foundation (courses) for success?

Regardless of your background, access to prestigious Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) has traditionally been a relatively straight forward scenario: you meet the entry requirements, or you don’t. However, things are changing in recognition of the argument that achieving, let’s say, A-level grades BBB in the context of social or economic disadvantage and/or a significantly disrupted education is as good an indicator of academic potential as meeting entry requirements (usually somewhere in the AAB-AAA region) in the absence of disadvantage. So-called contextual offers attempt to look beyond A-level score as a ‘gold standard’ of educational promise and take a more holistic view of the applicant. Indeed, most HEIs already have some sort of contextual admissions process (Sundorph, Vasilev and Coiffait, 2017).  Read More

The National Tutoring Service

Lee Elliot Major, Emily Tyers and Robin Chu

We believe a National Tutoring Service (NTS) could help tackle stark education gaps in the wake of the Covid-19 school closures. The NTS is a proposed coalition of tutoring organisations, universities and schools to mobilise undergraduates and graduates to help improve the achievement of disadvantaged pupils in the core subjects of English and Maths across the UK. The service would have multiple benefits: boosting volunteering among undergraduates, offering employment for graduates, and helping teachers in their efforts to level-up education’s playing field. Read More