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Norfolk students receive a Headstart from UEA

Students in a seminar

Waiting for exam results can be a daunting time for anyone, particularly if you’re the first in your family to apply to university and aren’t sure what to expect next. The University of East Anglia (UEA) is extending a helping hand to such students in the run-up to results day – and on the day itself, 17 August, through its “Headstart” programme.

“Most of the work we do is aspiration-raising to help encourage and support students who feel that university isn’t an option for them, but we also recognise that many young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as mature students, benefit from extra support transitioning to university study,” said Lauren Starkey, Outreach Officer. “That’s why, for the first time this year, we ran a transition event for students who hold a firm offer with UEA and live in areas where, typically, only small numbers progress to higher education.”

UEA welcomed 40 of these offer holders to the Headstart launch event earlier in the month, giving students the opportunity to get to know the campus, strengthen their core academic skills and meet other students, academic and support staff before their first day. Further support offered by the programme will continue until the start of their first semester, with advisers on hand on results day, should any of the students need to go through Clearing.

In 2015-16, approximately 10 per cent of UEA’s full-time, first degree UK undergraduate intake who were under 21 at the time of entry came from neighborhoods with the lowest likelihood of progressing to university, and 16 per cent of equivalent mature students came from a similar background and had no previous experience of higher education– both above the relevant benchmark figures for UEA provided by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

“We not only want to encourage young people from all backgrounds to come to university but also to do all we can to ensure that they stay once they are here,” said Lauren. “By making the transition to university smoother and addressing some of the common worries and concerns before they arrive, we can help to prepare, build confidence and enable students to settle in more quickly.

“Mature students are more likely to drop out than younger undergraduates, and often have very different challenges. We made sure the entire event was tailored for students of all ages and at different stages in their life, but we also offered a specific session for mature students which allowed them the opportunity to ask questions and address some of those common worries and concerns.”

Students who had more questions or felt that they would require further support following the event were invited to sign up for online mentoring with direct access to academic advisers.

Those who attended the event were very positive. One spoke of a “feeling of being welcomed, looked after, cared about and a bit more reassured and confident about coming in September” while another commented: “It was very helpful and made me feel less scared about clearing… everyone was very friendly and helpful.” Another attendee added: “So much information about non-academic support and general academic skills support. How positive UEA are about their students and their futures.”