Leicester boosts disadvantaged student intake as it reaches out to primary schools

Our University is targeting primary schools in efforts to diversify its intake after seeing a significant rise in applications from disadvantaged students.

Four programmes our University offers to help students from poorer backgrounds win degree places have been oversubscribed this year, with applications up by 25 per cent compared with last year.

It follows a campaign to reach out to schools and raise awareness of the programmes among teachers and younger pupils.

Our University is now sending staff and students into local primary as well as secondary schools in areas where few progress into higher education, talking to pupils and giving workshops in a bid to raise aspirations and dispel myths about studying for a degree.

Professor Jon Scott, Pro-Vice-Chancellor with special responsibility for Student Experience, said: “The work we have done has had an even greater impact than expected. It has really paid off. We are making connections earlier and getting pupils and their parents to start thinking about university and making choices sooner. It shows the earlier we can start talking to pupils and their parents, the better.” 

Hannah Ordoyno, the University’s widening participation manager, said: “Pupils really respond well to having student role models who can share their experience of university, rather than just hearing about it from a teacher.

“The work we are doing means that by the time students at an age where they can apply for a place through one of our progression programmes, we already have a good relationship with them, and their teachers are happy to recommend they go ahead.”

The news comes as new national figures are published showing how universities have performed against benchmarks for widening access to higher education. It also follows recent statistics from UCAS showing that children who receive free school meals are less than half as likely to enter higher education as those who do not.

Under Leicester’s “Bright Sparks” scheme staff and students deliver workshops in primary schools and on campus introducing children to the idea of going to university; while in its “Adopt a Class” initiative students Skype and write to primary classes about their experiences while spending some time studying abroad as part of their degree.