Leading University boosts disadvantaged student intake as it reaches out to primary schools

Posted by ap507 at Feb 02, 2017 10:49 AM |
University of Leicester programmes support widening participation

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 2 February 2017    

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

The University of Leicester says four programmes it 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.

The University is now sending its 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.

Leicester, which ranks higher in national league tables than many members of the elite Russell Group of universities, says there has been particularly high demand this year for progression programmes for disadvantaged students offering those that complete them places with £1,000-a-year bursaries and lower entry grades.

It now aims to build on the popularity of the schemes by reaching out to working class pupils at an earlier age, including primary schoolchildren. Pilot schemes in local schools are already delivering results, it says.

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.”

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.

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.”

Leicester offers hundreds of places for students from disadvantaged backgrounds at schools in its region who join programmes at the age of 16 designed to raise their aspirations and help them find their way onto the right degree course. Many students that successfully progress through the programmes are then offered places for lower entry grades and with a £1,000-a-year bursary to help cover their costs. Some of the programmes seek in particular to encourage students to aim to study subjects that tend to attract applicants from wealthier households, such as medicine and law.

In addition, from September the University’s Medical School will be offering scholarships worth £9,000 to students joining a new Foundation Year designed to attract more students from state schools and lower socio-economic groups.


The Higher Education Statistics Agency published performance indicators showing the proportion of students entering universities from state schools, disadvantaged backgrounds and areas of low participation in higher education, at 9.30am on Thursday 2nd February 2017.


Programmes offered by the University of Leicester for students from disadvantaged backgrounds include:

Leicester Enhanced Access Programme (LEAP), and a medicine specific strand MedLEAP, is designed to engage talented Year 12 students from across the wider East Midlands (Leicester/Leicestershire and Rutland, Derbyshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Warwickshire) who have an interest in possibly studying at the University of Leicester but whose personal circumstances may have affected their ability to reach their full academic potential.

Pathways to Law is a two-year programme for Year 12 students who are interested in a career in Law. It was set up in 2006 by The Sutton Trust and The Legal Education Foundation, with support from major law firms, to inspire and support academically-able students in Year 12 and 13 from non-privileged backgrounds interested in a career in law.

The Realising Opportunities Programme provides able Year 12 students with essential skills and information to help them not only make informed decisions about their future and to raise their aspirations to progress to a leading research intensive university, but to support their current work in school/college. Eligible students are recruited onto the programme by their local RO university through a targeted schools approach.

MedReach E-mentoring is a programme that links students up with one current Leicester medical students through an online e-mentoring system. Mentors are carefully matched to students through information about hobbies and social interests. Mentors give independent advice and guidance and support students through the challenges of aspiring to medicine and being a successful medical student.

The University of Leicester’s Medical School will be offering scholarships worth £9,000 to students joining a new Foundation Year designed to attract more students from state schools and lower socio-economic groups.

Students who pass the Foundation course and either choose to continue studying medicine or another related course will qualify for a further £2,000 a year scholarship funding for the rest of their degree. It means those that complete the Foundation Year and a medical degree could receive scholarships worth up to a total of £19,000.

The Foundation Year and scholarships, offered for students starting in September next year, are being backed by a charitable trust, which has donated £2 million towards the cost.

The University of Leicester is ranked 25th in this year’s Times and Sunday Times university league table and 32nd in the Complete University Guide league table 2017.


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