Loughborough joins national widening access scheme

Loughborough and Lancaster University have become the latest partners in Realising Opportunities (RO), the innovative widening access scheme led by Newcastle University.

There are now 16 research intensive universities across England involved in RO1 making it a highly unique opportunity for students.  To date over 7,000 very able 16/17-year-olds from backgrounds underrepresented in higher education have taken part and the inclusion of Lancaster and Loughborough will allow even more students to benefit from RO.

Professor Chris Day, Vice-Chancellor and President of Newcastle University, said: “I am delighted that both Lancaster and Loughborough universities are joining RO. RO’s strength is in the collaboration between the universities involved which allows a high quality programme - which is having real impact on students - to be delivered. We look forward to working with both universities to further strengthen RO and enable more students to take part in the RO Programme.” 

RO is contributing to the Office for Students’ target to eliminate the gap in participation at higher tariff providers between the most and least represented groups2, an area RO has had great success in to date.

At a time when the Department for Education report only 17% of pupils at state schools nationally3 – including state school students from advantaged backgrounds – progress to the top third of UK institutions, one in three RO students have progressed to research intensive universities.

Professor Rachel Thomson, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Teaching) at Loughborough University, said: “We are excited to be joining the RO partnership, and have the opportunity to collaborate with other research-intensive Universities to inspire and support students from under-represented groups into higher education through this impactful initiative.

“We are absolutely committed to widening participation and fair access and this programme allows us the opportunity to build on our extensive range of high-quality interventions to support young people achieve to their full potential.”

RO students access a programme of activity designed to support them to make an informed choice about their university application and develop skills vital for study at higher education. The commitment the students demonstrate on the programme is rewarded with a lower offer through UCAS. Students report that the RO programme increases their understanding of RIUs and university life and makes them better prepared for university.

Professor Steve Decent, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Academic Development at Lancaster University commented: “Lancaster University is thrilled to be working with Realising Opportunities and its partner universities to support more young people from under-represented backgrounds to access higher education. The Realising Opportunities programme provides a distinctive opportunity for students to engage with a large number of universities to enhance their skills and knowledge and take their next steps into further learning informed and prepared. We look forward to working with our local community to provide more students with access to this successful programme.”

RO students achieve great success when at university with more students staying on-course and achieving First and Upper Second Class honours degrees at better rates than the national averages.

Universities Minister Chris Skidmore said: “Our world class universities should be open to everyone who has the talent and potential. The Realising Opportunities programme helps highly able students from disadvantaged backgrounds access the life changing experience of going to university, and I am pleased that Lancaster and Loughborough have pledged their support.” 

Lancaster and Loughborough universities both bring extensive experience of widening access to higher education. RO is delighted that these two universities will not only strengthen the collaboration but increase the number of students able to benefit from the programme.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 19/144

1 These are: Birmingham, Exeter, Lancaster, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Loughborough, Sheffield, Sussex, Warwick and York; Goldsmiths, University of London; King’s College London, Newcastle University, Queen Mary University of London and UCL.

2 https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/media/0bcce522-df4b-4517-a4fd-101c2468444a/regulatory-notice-1access-and-participation-plan-guidance.pdf

3 https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/download-data 16 - 18 student destinations data 

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