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New UEA team encourages young people into higher education

Young students in lab coats

The University of East Anglia (UEA) has just completed creating a new team to encourage young people from disadvantaged areas to move on to higher education. The 10 champions, part of UEA’s existing Widening Participation team, are based in colleges and sixth forms throughout Norfolk as part of the Government’s new £120 million National Collaborative Outreach Programme (ncop).

The initiative targets wards throughout the country where there’s low progression to higher education. UEA is working alongside Anglia Ruskin University, Norwich University of the Arts, the University of Cambridge and the University of Suffolk and in close partnership with the region’s further education colleges to deliver a set of ambitious targets across East Anglia, with a £9 million budget share. The partnership, neaco (Network for East Anglian Collaborative Outreach), will deliver tested approaches and develop innovative ways to meet specific challenges in the region.

“Young people’s likelihood of applying to university is not only influenced by their economic and social background, but by where they live,” said Stefanie Copsey, UEA’s programme co-ordinator. “Although more 18-year-olds across all social groups were offered university places in 2016 than ever before, there are still significant pockets of young people achieving the qualifications they need to progress to higher education but not currently doing so. Our project aims to ensure that young people are equipped to make the right decision for them in their next steps in life.

“Seventy-four wards in the region have been identified as areas of concern, and our aim is to encourage all young people to achieve their full potential. We’re developing targeted initiatives for students in Years 9-13 that link with our existing activities and address the specific needs of each sixth form or college.”

The initiative will run until the end of 2018, with the possibility of a further two years’ funding after that. Nationally, the aim is to double the proportion of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds choosing to enter higher education by 2020, with particular focus on pupils from ethnic minorities and disadvantaged white males.

Astra Richardson is champion for City Academy and City College Norwich, where she’s based. “A lot of great work is already going on to encourage young people to choose higher education when they might not previously have even considered it as an option,” she said. “We’ll add to this with initiatives such as supporting students with their study skills, bringing employers in to speak about graduate career opportunities, peer-to-peer mentoring programmes and by working together to put on larger events to motivate and inspire students across the county and region.

“As parents are such a strong influence, we’ll also involve them by addressing any concerns that might prevent them from encouraging their children to attend university or other forms of higher education, such as worries over finance.”

The champions are working closely with the teams in the sixth forms and colleges where they’re based to ensure the students receive all the information, motivation and support they need to create the best possible future for themselves.

Jerry White, Deputy Principal, City College Norwich, said: “We are delighted to welcome Astra. City College Norwich is proud to already have a large number of students progressing on to a variety of degree-level options each year after completing their courses. Having Astra working with the college will help us to expand this further by providing additional support to students who may not consider higher education progression is for them.”