What do schools, teachers, students and parents want from universities to support kids to get to University?
Milburn expresses clearly, as the social- mobility guru, that there is much Universities can do targeted at students from under-represented groups such as disabled students, students from areas where there is traditional low participation in higher education, ethnic minority students and students from families where no one has been to university. While Universities are digesting Milburn’s report, OFFA has set out its vision and expectations for widening participation in its annual guidance for the HE sector and a page devoted to sanctions if a HEI fails to meet its HE access agreement. Now that many HEIs are charging the maximum fees they are increasingly accountable to ensure that their widen participation and access agenda is robust and takes on board the strong steers from external influencers especially OFFA.
The OFFA guidance quotes Milburn several times in a 40 page document, so the pieces of the jigsaw are coming together. What should HEIs do to widen participation and help the social mobility agenda? After all the research, including the Leach Report (remember Leach?), shows that a degree is a passport to better economic stability for the individual and supports the national skills requirements to successful participate in a global economy. Universities need to form strong links with schools, provide after school homework support facilities, set up subject study days, provide IAG on admissions processes, use contextualised data to inform admissions processes, run summer schools, provide mentors and in the main raise aspiration and attainment at KS 2, KS 3, KS4 and KS 5 and try to do this in collaboration with other HEIs. All of these activities targeted at students and schools that at the moment are under-represented in the undergraduate population – otherwise it is unaccountable by OFFA.
What do schools think about this? The independent school sector has strong links with selective universities and often these go back hundreds of years, if not more. They have a head-start, but now is the opportunity for state schools to say, in the absence of a national careers service, universities can provide my students with… Your voice needs to be heard?