11 July 2013 11:51

The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) has endorsed the University’s future plans to raise aspirations and attainment among people from lower-income backgrounds and other groups currently under-represented in higher education.

Lancaster is one of the UK’s highly ranked research intensive and excellent universities which has 91% of undergraduate students   coming from state schools. The Russell Group average is 60 to 75%.

Lancaster is also ahead of the benchmarks for universities for undergraduates who are black or from minority ethnic groups and from those students coming from low participation neighbourhoods. An important measure of student success is the ultimate progression to work or further study. Lancaster has 93% of graduates going into work or further study within six months  - the highest proportion in the North West as ranked by the Complete University Guide 2014. 

To achieve this, the University has supported students with a generous package of scholarships and bursaries which next year will total £3.7M and has delivered a comprehensive programme of outreach activity. Lancaster also provides accommodation and fee waivers for students from the lowest household incomes.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Mark E. Smith welcomed OFFA’s announcement:

“Everyone with the potential to benefit from higher education should have the opportunity to do so, whatever their background. Taking on the challenge of widening access, participation, progression and achievement is a central part of Lancaster’s mission.

“Support for students is an important component of removing barriers to effective study, preventing drop-out and maximising attainment. Lancaster has a particularly comprehensive student support network which gives every student two advisors to provide pastoral and academic support on a regular, one-to-one basis. This system of support contributes to a very low dropout rate at Lancaster.”

Future activity will include a programme of summer schools for 600 participants, masterclasses for 2,000 students, and mentoring for 250 students as part of the investment in collaborative outreach between Lancaster, schools and colleges.

Widening Participation in Partnership with Schools and Colleges

In 2011, Lancaster established 10 compact partnerships with schools and colleges within the North West that have high percentages of WP students.  Through collaborative partnership, applications have risen by 28.3% for 2013.

Our partnership provides students from partner schools and colleges with a guaranteed conditional offer/interview at Lancaster University. The University also provides students with support, advice and guidance on higher education, student finance, choosing courses and places and personal statements. Students visit the campus and have priority on all summer schools, take part in mentoring and attend academic master classes. The University also runs information advice and guidance sessions for parents, guardians and school/college staff who are key influencers when helping students to make important decisions regarding higher education.  During the 2013/14 academic year the University will be extending the compact partnership to a further 5 WP schools and colleges.

 ‘Target Uni’ Mentoring Scheme

This scheme is aimed at year 12 students from widening participation backgrounds, and provides a sustained programme of interventions designed to inspire, motivate and build confidence and to encourage students to progress to university. The strength of the scheme lies in linking mentees (WP students) and mentors (current Lancaster students) through shared areas of academic interest. Mentees take part in a number of interventions over a 6 month period, including 4 visits from their mentor and the completion of online ‘undergraduate level’ activities with PhD tutors in their subject area of interest. On completion of the scheme, mentees visit Lancaster for a celebration day on campus. Mentees who successfully complete the scheme are also guaranteed a conditional offer/interview from Lancaster.  The University tracks the students through the scheme to progression on to university. For example, last year, 21% of the students participating in the scheme sent successful applications to Lancaster. At present the scheme reaches 250 mentees and provides employment opportunities for 50 current Lancaster students.

Student Volunteering

Through our Student Volunteering Unit, LUSU Involve, the University provides pastoral elements of student support that raise aspirations. This year, 600 student volunteers are on school and college projects with activities engaging over 10,000 pupils across 66 schools in the region. Demand from students wishing to gain experience has increased over the last 5 years with 622 students involved in 2011-12 compared to 138 students in 2006-7. Many of the students participating in this activity come from WP groups and involvement in the scheme aids their progression from HE to employment. For example, in 2011, 119 of our graduates, who were involved in volunteering, went into teaching careers with 71 based in the North West.