Why collaboration is so important in widening participation

Why collaboration is so important in widening participation.

Over the past 20 years, Aimhigher London, universities and an increasing number of charities and organisations have been working to address inequalities in accessing higher education, supporting social mobility for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and yet despite more young people accessing higher education, the gap between young people from privileged backgrounds and those from low socio-economic backgrounds still persists.

“The magnitude of the disadvantage gap” according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies “shows that children who are eligible for free school meals (roughly 15% of the poorest pupils) in England do significantly worse at every stage of school”

The UniConnect programme, of which Aimhigher is part, focuses on addressing the access gap specifically in areas with low progression rates to university. We work in collaboration with our network of universities, schools, colleges and third parties to not only identify the schools and young people in disadvantaged postcodes, but also to create relevant, sustained interventions and experiences that respond to the learners needs, when they need them across their education journey, starting in year 9.

Attainment, self-belief and confidence are important to the development of young people and to make in-roads in addressing the barriers young people face to achieve their full potential, collaboration is vital to ensure the breadth and range of interventions are truly fit for purpose. The Office for Students have recently released guidance to support stronger partnerships between universities and schools,  Aimhigher London have well developed school partnerships and offer our higher education provider members access to young people who are in the most disadvantages groups, and collectively we offer a wealth of expertise to ensure the experiences have an impact on the future aspirations of those young people:

“Thanks it really helped me understand uni life more and I’m not as afraid to go to uni as I was before” St Thomas More (KS4 student)

Our collaborations are not limited to the Learner Progression Programme, but we also deliver information sessions for parents, advice sessions for alternative pathways, co-create conferences for learners with a disability, neurodiversity or care experienced backgrounds, and CPD for the carers and teachers of these young people. Collectively, we are supporting the young people to not only research and experience what higher education could be for them, but offering confidence boosts that should they decide university is for them, that it is the right choice.

We are proud of our partnerships in the Aimhigher London network and recognise the contribution everyone makes by celebrating their work at the Aimhigher London annual Practitioner Awards, most of all however, we are incredibly proud of the young people we work with. As the Office for Students introduces a new regime for universities and UniConnect partners to work to, Aimhigher London are keen to continue our work, deepen our collaborations and develop the network for the benefit of the learners, their teachers, parents and carers.

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