Students Staff

14 December 2016

Government awards £5.8m to Essex to support young people to access higher education

Funding worth more than £5.8m has been awarded to a countywide collaboration being led by the University of Essex to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to progress into higher education – particularly young white males and ethnic minority groups.

The Essex Collaborative Outreach Network is one of 29 local consortia to receive funding to deliver the national programme which will launch in January 2017. Essex has received funding for the next two years from the National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP) which is providing £60 million nationally per year.

Organisations involved in the Essex Collaborative Outreach Network includes the University of Essex, Anglia Ruskin University, Colchester Institute, Harlow College, South Essex College of Further and Higher Education, University of East London, Writtle University College, Clacton County High School, Cornelius Vermuyden School on Canvey Island, Brightside Trust, Youth at Risk, The Brilliant Club, Essex County Council, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and Thurrock Council.

Specific local areas in Essex will be targeted where participation in higher education is both low overall and lower than expected given GCSE attainment levels including Basildon, Braintree, Colchester, Harlow, Southend, Tendring, Thurrock and Witham.

Network Manager Claudia Carey, who is based at the University of Essex, said: “We’ve got an incredibly strong network of partners across Essex and we are determined to successfully connect with these hard to reach communities. We believe higher education can unlock the potential and talent of young people so we want to make sure they see further study as a real option for them.

“The consortium will deliver a programme of activities at schools, colleges, universities and within the community aimed at connecting with students in the identified areas. We have a long term, core programme, but alongside this we will also have additional activity around critical decision points for students such as results day for BTEC and A-level students.

“Our Higher Education and Further Education partners are all working closely together with schools in Essex to develop activities which will really engage learners. Essex is a really varied county with a broad spectrum of students so we are trying to really tailor what we do for each area so students can pick activities suited to them.”

A key priority is to deliver unbiased and reliable information and support to students so they can understand and make informed choices about the different opportunities available to them.

A total of 260 higher education providers in England are involved in the programme led by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The planned collaborations will ensure all 997 of the local wards identified in the Government’s analysis will be covered.

Consortia will deliver tested approaches to outreach through schools and local communities, as well as developing innovative ways to meet specific challenges in different areas. These activities will build upon and provide a boost to existing outreach work taking place across England.

A large-scale evaluation programme will measure the impact of the programme from the start, using a range of methodologies at local and national level, including national data analysis, longitudinal tracking, qualitative research and randomised control trials. The aim will be to build a powerful evidence base to ensure that investment is concentrated in activity that is shown to be the most effective.

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said: ‘We are seeing record numbers of disadvantaged young people going to university and benefitting from the real opportunities that our world class universities can offer.

“This funding and the schemes that have been developed by universities will make a real difference to young people in key areas. In addition to this, we are legislating for a new transparency duty which will place a clear requirement on all universities to release more information about their admissions process and real incentives on all institutions to go further and faster to promote social mobility.”

HEFCE Director of Policy Chris Millward said: “NCOP represents a significant investment by HEFCE in improving the life chances of young people in some of our most disadvantaged communities. Our evidence has shown that there are young people in these areas who are achieving the qualifications they need to benefit from higher education, but are not currently doing so. The programme will ensure that they are better equipped to make the right choice for them by exposing the range of higher education options available and the careers they make possible.” 

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