Posted on Friday, 21 October 2016 at 2pm
by Greg Elliott. See more of my posts here.
The University of Leeds is to take part in a new research project to determine the best ways universities can reach out to mature learners, particularly those in under-represented groups.
The six-month project, commissioned by the Office for Fair Access (OFFA), will address a critical gap in Widening Participation policy: sector understanding of outreach aimed at adults rather than school pupils, and looking at groups currently under-represented in higher education.
We will be working in conjunction with The Open University, the University of Bristol and Birkbeck, University of London, to produce a series of case studies evidencing different approaches to engaging adult learners. These institutions have all seen it as part of their mission, historically, to serve the needs of adult learners.
The Leeds case study will focus on the community outreach work undertaken by the Lifelong Learning Centre, where widening participation for adults and part-time learners forms part of its remit. Our Deputy Director for Partnerships, Lindsey Fraser, is leading the study:
We are very pleased to be taking part in this project. The University of Leeds has a longstanding commitment to widening participation for mature and part-time students, with the Lifelong Learning Centre being a key element in this work. We have a great deal of experience in engaging with adults from local communities and this initiative gives us an opportunity to evaluate our practice and, with project partners, disseminate our findings to colleagues in higher education more widely.
According to Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education at OFFA:
Adult learners enrich university communities, but there are still far too few of them. We urgently need to understand more about the specific challenges they face, and how best to attract and support them into higher education. This project will support universities and colleges to find out what works best for adult learners in their own contexts, ensuring that the investment they make through their Access Agreements is having a real impact.
Moreover Dr John Butcher, Deputy Director for Access at The Open University and project lead, has said that:
The issue of the decline in part-time HE learners has been well-documented, but the disproportionate impact of fee rises on adult learners, together with the inadequacy of Information, Advice and Guidance aimed at mature students, remain critical issues in efforts to widen access to university study.
A key outcome of this project will be the stimulus provided to universities to include credibly evaluated outreach with adults in their Access Agreements. This will result in a fuller and more inclusive interpretation of widening participation in England.
The project runs for six months until the end of March 2017 – if you’d like more information please don’t hesitate to contact us.