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Widening Participation

Widening participation in higher education

Widening participation in higher education

We’re proud of everyone in our diverse and inclusive University community and work tirelessly to break down barriers to ensure that everyone can benefit from the transformative education we provide.   

Outreach work

We work with local schools and colleges as part of our commitment to widening participation amongst those groups typically under-represented in higher education, and in 2019-20 were delighted to see more than 2,000 school pupils engage across 92 events. Half of the young people we worked with were first generation University students, roughly a quarter had a disability and 41% were members of the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community. Just under half (46%) of the pupils we worked with came from disadvantaged backgrounds and, on average, 63% lived in areas of low participation in higher education.  

Our events to widen participation include taster days, course and careers specific sessions and advice and guidance across a variety of age groups from Years 7 to 13. These engagements reflect the increasing emphasis by government and schools on careers advice, and aim to help students in their career choices and illustrate the pathways available to them, whether or not this includes higher education. The support offered by our team is especially important for students from non-traditional backgrounds in Higher Education.  

Our Futures Days campus visits are aimed at Year 9 students, offering a first-hand experience of university life to encourage them to consider higher education, irrespective of their background. 

For older age groups we support both their move into further education and their application to higher education, as well as offering parents’ information evenings and higher education workshops. We actively seek to recruit Student Ambassadors who attended our target widening participation schools, to provide school pupils with relatable role models.  

Our University is a partner in Study Higher, part of the Uni-Connect programme which targets students from areas where progression to higher education is low. As well as taking part in joint ventures with our partners – Oxford Brookes University, The University of Reading and The University of Oxford – we have successfully launched our Simulate Your Future project. This uses a state of the art ‘simulation vehicle’ to promote higher education study across the region through our cutting-edge ‘simulator’ technology that places participants in virtual career environments.  

Supporting care leavers into University

We work with local authorities to provide bespoke activity days for care-experienced students where they can make friends and familiarise themselves with our campus and all the opportunities of higher education. 

We offer plenty of tailored support to care leavers and estranged students who are studying with us or who are thinking of applying. Our admissions, student services, and accommodation teams all work together to make sure the right support is in place at the right time so students can get the most out of their time in higher education. Application guidance, accommodation support, a £1,000 bursary, mentoring, support services are all in place.

Helping military personnel transition to life outside the forces

The University is committed to providing educational and development opportunities for serving and veteran members of HM Armed Forces and their families. As a signatory of the Armed Forces Covenant and holder of the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme Silver Award, we recognise the contribution of military personnel and their families. Our own specialist courses, such as Organisational Capability Development and Strength and Conditioning, are taught by serving and former military tutors. We also work closely with partners, including Frontier Risks Group, to offer pathways into our programmes. Find out more.

Our pledges

We’re very proud to celebrate and support the varied and valued contributions the Gypsy, Traveller, Roma, Showmen and Boater (GTRSB) communities make to higher education and British. 

In January 2021, we launched the GTRSB into Higher Education Pledge to encourage other universities, colleges or educational institutions to support GTRSB community members into and within higher education. Supported by GTRSB university graduates, NGOs, and education policy specialists, the Pledge sets out to deliver effective practice and create an open and welcoming environment where members of the communities can thrive at their institution. 

As part of our ongoing commitment, we introduced a GTRSB student bursary in 2020 to further encourage and support members of these communities in accessing higher education. This is in addition to the support we already offer with accommodation, assistance with university applications, and providing mentorship throughout a student's studies. We will continue to enhance our culture and environment by working in partnership alongside our GTRSB students, colleagues and broader networks.