The Pathways to HE programme aims to encourage young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in the region to consider higher education. Over the past year it has run more than 190 activities in schools in Leicestershire and Rutland, and a third of young people attending had no sibling or parent who had previously been to university.
Led by the University of Leicester working with De Montfort University, Loughborough University, Leicester College and Loughborough College and the Leicester Enterprise Partnership, it is one of 29 regional partnerships that form the Uni Connect programme.
Earlier this year, it was recognised with a Community and Business Award in celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
Established by the Office for Students (OfS) in 2017, Uni Connect aims to increase the number of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in England who go into higher education. Local partnerships help link universities and colleges with schools to offer young people activities, advice and information on the benefits and realities of going to university. Since its launch, it has engaged with over one million young people, equipping them with the information they need to make informed choices about their future education and helping minimise any barriers to achieving their potential.
Jess Bogic, Pathways Project Manager at the University of Leicester, said: “The benefits of higher education should be available to all, irrespective of background, but we know that for many communities in Leicestershire and Rutland that these benefits seem out of their reach. The opportunity to experience life at university, develop new skills and explore future careers with higher education providers makes a real difference in giving our communities information and opportunities to think about their future. As a result of the Pathways to HE programme, we’ve seen measurable improvements in their knowledge of their post-16 options, life in higher education, and their confidence in their studying and transferrable skills.”
The Uni Connect programme will strengthen its focus on raising the academic attainment levels of pupils in years 7 to 11 (ages 12-16). By supporting partnerships between universities and colleges with schools and local organisations, Uni Connect will develop and expand its work to encompass a wide range of high-quality activities to increase students’ attainment and support their progression into higher education.
John Blake, director for fair access and participation at the OfS, leads on equality of opportunity in higher education at the OfS. John said:
“It is fantastic to see that over one million young people have engaged with Uni Connect so far and become more informed about educational opportunities and their futures. The earlier that educational support and guidance starts the better, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, which is why it’s important for Uni Connect to focus on raising attainment for those aged 16 and under. Over half of all schools and colleges in England have worked with the programme. We encourage all school leaders to engage with their local Uni Connect partnership to develop collaborative approaches to help drive student attainment up.”
Recently, the region’s three universities agreed to combine skills, experience and resources to deliver joint projects supporting the local economy, arts and culture, sports and more. Called the Universities Partnership, it has been drawn up by the universities together with a number of local authorities: Leicester City Council, Leicestershire County Council, Oadby and Wigston Borough Council, Rutland County Council, and Charnwood Borough Council.