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The study found that almost half of all students who attend the University’s Academic Enrichment Programme go onto a Russell Group university, compared to 11% of state school pupils in the region.

Year 12 students from less privileged backgrounds and from non-selective state schools in the West Midlands who attend the University of Birmingham’s 5-day Academic Enrichment Programme are as likely to attend a prestigious Russell Group university as students from independent sector schools, a study of over 600 pupils published in the British Educational Research Journal has found.

The study looked at 6 cohorts of students on the Programme between 2010/11 and 2015/16, totalling 604 students, and which university they went to, then comparing those rates to national and regional figures.

It found that almost half (48%) of all students who attend the University’s Academic Enrichment Programme go onto a Russell Group university, compared to 11% of state school pupils in the region.

The study also demonstrates that a greater proportion of Year 12 students completing the Academic Enrichment Programme progress to a Russell Group University than pupils from the independent sector schools across the UK - 48% compared to 38%.

The Academic Enrichment Programme has been running since 2007 and is an immersive five day residential programme that gives students an insight into the full university experience, including taster lectures from a range of academic subjects, living in accommodation and new social experiences.

The Programme is only available to students who live inside the Greater West Midlands region and are currently in Year 12. Applications are encouraged from year 12 students who meet at least three of the following criteria:

  • Have had experience of public care
  • Attend or attended a school or college that performs below the national average at Key Stage 4 or Key Stage 5
  • Currently live in a low progression area
  • Are in the first generation of your immediate family to attend higher education
  • Your household income is below the national average (below £42,875)
  • You have a disability and are in receipt of a personal independence payment
  • You are estranged from both of your parents or guardians

Students who successfully complete the Academic Enrichment Programme and apply to the University of Birmingham receive special consideration from admissions tutors and if they are successful, receive two offers from the University of Birmingham, the standard offer and an Pathways to Birmingham offer (typically a two grade reduction (e.g. BBB rather than AAB)).

Reflecting on his time on the Academic Enrichment Programme, Dan Guest, 1st year Political Science student said:  “The Academic Enrichment Programme gave me the self-belief and determination that I had the potential to study at a Russell Group university.

"During the programme, I was able to grow personally, including boosting my self-belief and confidence, as well as learning a host of academic skills which I still use now I’m studying at the University of Birmingham.

"The online mentoring support I received after the programme really helped me with the application process to universities and allowed me understand more about university life.

"I have also continued to be supported by the programme now I am at university. I am currently on a summer school at the National University of Singapore for two months through a university scholarship.

"My participation on the AEP programme both allowed me to apply for this life changing experience and also equipped me with the skills and attitudes needed to take on this endeavour. The AEP programme has truly changed my life; it made me realise that anyone can access a Russell Group university and pushed me to achieve.”

Mohammed Ansar, Outreach Officer and Co-ordinator of the Programme at the University of Birmingham said: “I am delighted that this evaluation demonstrates the success of the Academic Enrichment Programme.

"This programme changes the lives of so many young people who gain the tools and self-confidence to realise their full academic and career potential.

"Students from this programme have gone onto become successful barristers, dentists, solicitors, chartered accountants and doctors and we are proud of the small but important part the University of Birmingham has played in helping them to realise their ambitions.”

Author of the study, Shaheen Barkat, Outreach Evaluation Officer at the University of Birmingham said: “We knew that the Academic Enrichment Programme had a positive impact on the chances of a student reaching a Russell Group institution, but we are delighted that our study has shown quite how significant that impact is.”

Cathy Gilbert, Director of External Relations at the University of Birmingham, said:  “The Academic Enrichment Programme is just one part of our commitment to widening participation and improving access.

"We were one of the first universities to set up a fair access scheme for local students in 2000 and are proud to be able to offer prospective applicants the support of our Access to Birmingham scheme.

"We work with over 250 schools and 25,000 pupils each year to raise aspirations and encourage students to make supported and educated decisions about their future in higher education and will continue to ensure that students from a wide variety of social and cultural backgrounds can benefit from a University education.”

The study used the Theory of Change approach to evaluate the Academic Enrichment Programme to assess the effectiveness and impact of the programme on widening access to selective universities.

For more information please contact Dominic Benson, Deputy Director of Communications, University of Birmingham, on +44 0121 414 5134. Alternatively, contact the Press Office out of hours on +44 (0)7789 921165.

  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, and its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 6,500 international students from nearly 150 countries.
  • About the Academic Enrichment Programme:
  • Each student will experience first-hand what life studying and living at a research-led university is like by staying for five days and four nights in the University halls of residence and attending academic sessions in an area of their interest. During the evenings, students will be able to take part in social activities and will also have the opportunity to take a tour of Birmingham.
  • Throughout the residential, there will be a team of current undergraduate student ambassadors on hand to support within a relevant academic stream to support and advice.
  • In the Autumn Term, students will attend the first of two study support sessions, the date and content of which will be confirmed nearer the time. In addition during Year 13, students will also be paired up with a current undergraduate from the University and will have further support through e-mentoring on a weekly basis.
  • There are 4 broad streams that students can choose from; this must be related to their current studies or relevant to the degree programme they wish to study. The academic streams will include some of the following areas, but these are all subject to availability of academic staff:
  1. Humanities and Social Sciences – covering Geography, English, History, Law, Politics, Social Policy, Public Policy, Social Work, Sociology, Theology, Psychology
  2. Business – Accounting, Economics, Business, International Studies
  3. Physical Sciences – Engineering, Computer Science, Physics, Maths, Chemistry
  4. Biological and Health Sciences – Physiotherapy, Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing, Biology, Biomedical Material Science
  5. In addition to academic lectures and seminars there are contributions from external organisations.