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

How will flaws in predicted grades affect this year’s students?

Lee Elliot Major is Professor of Social Mobility at the University of Exeter.

A version of this blog was published by the Daily Telegraph.

It’s one of those puzzling aspects of our university system that has always caused controversy. In the UK, unlike any other country in the world, students apply for university degrees not with their actual grades, but with grades predicted by their teachers. Universities give conditional offers on the basis of these predicted grades. Offers, under normal circumstances, are then confirmed when students get their actual A-level grades. Read More

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Welcome to the University of Exeter’s blog for the Centre for Social Mobility.

This is a platform for academics, researchers, students and staff to share their thoughts, research insights and innovative ideas relating to widening participation and improving social mobility at the University of Exeter. We hope that this blog inspires, engages and encourages collaborative working to help improve the educational outcomes for students from under-represented backgrounds.

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