Harper Adams University's Widening Participation programme up for national award

A seven-year project involving a Shropshire university hoping to widen access to Higher Education has been named as a finalist for a national award.

Harper Adams University
Harper Adams University

Harper Adams University's Widening Participation (WP) project 'Explore University', which also involved the University of Wolverhampton, has been shortlisted for the 2020 NEON (National Education Opportunities Network) Widening Access Initiative (Outreach) Award.

The award will be presented at a virtual ceremony on October 22.

The project, which is run in collaboration with Keele, Staffordshire and Wolverhampton universities, was founded in 2013.

The initial five-year project worked with eight WP primary schools across the West Midlands and delivered an outreach programme to Year Five and Six pupils, involving more than 4,800 interactions.

Inspiring young people

The project has been extended for a further three years initially, to work with a new set of eight specially selected schools, with the main aim being to raise attainment and ambitions within young, disadvantaged people around Higher Education opportunities.

The project teaches the youngsters, through a series of events on university campuses and in their own schools, all about university life, what they can study and why they might want to go to university when they grow up.

Rachel Brookes, widening participation officer at Harper Adams, who helped develop the initiative, said: "When it comes to outreach and inspiring young people about their Higher Education choices, it is more commonly believed that targeting secondary age groups is best. However, that seed of ambition needs to be planted at a much earlier age.

“The younger age groups are very impressionable and receptive, and information they find exciting at a young age does stick with them. We hope this project has the same impact, in educating and widening the access to Higher Education from disadvantages groups."

NEON was established in 2012 as the professional organisation to support those involved in promoting social mobility through widening access to Higher Education. NEON brings together Higher Education institutions, schools, colleges, the voluntary sector, professional bodies and employers.

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