Employability Monsters: exploring barriers and challenges to employability

Written by Dr Dawn Lees PFHEA, Student Employability and Development Manager, Kate Foster SFHEA Employability and Careers Consultant (WP) and Alice Potter, SCP

When an outgoing student commented that she hadn’t felt entitled to use the Career Zone, we were obviously concerned. After all, the staff are all highly approachable and knowledgeable, and there are a number of ways for students to engage both through the curriculum and in voluntary ways – so what had gone wrong? Why had this particular student not felt able to engage, how many others were there like her, and what could we do about it? Read More

Breaking the Cycle of Working class Underachievement in Education

In 2013 I became the first person in my family to pursue higher education. In 2017 I became the first to have a degree – graduating with a MEng in Mechanical Engineering. Since then I have (nearly) completed a PhD in Engineering and am currently working as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Control Engineering department.

Unfortunately as things stand one of the greatest predictors for a person’s academic success is not their genetic capacity to learn but the academic success of their family, creating a vicious cycle which prevents social mobility and exacerbates the wealth divide. Read More

The Ups and Downs of Social Mobility (A Quick Guide for Newbies)

A couple of years ago I was prepping for a job interview and roped in a friend (who happened to be my old boss) to help me out. She works in the further education sector, so we’re not worlds apart on the job scene, but when she launched into a passionate speech about social mobility my brain immediately tuned in…partly out of panic and partly out of curiosity. Why was she so enthusiastic about something I knew so little about? Yes, it sounded vaguely familiar, but I didn’t really get what I could do about it.

So, for those who have perhaps heard the term but not quite connected the dots, here’s a quick crash course in social mobility, and why it matters.

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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