West Midlands awarded £1.14 million for widening access to higher education

A £22 million programme to encourage young people from poorer backgrounds to consider going to university includes a £1.14 million award to expand a pioneering scheme in the West Midlands.

The award from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), announced today, aims to build on the success of the Aimhigher West Midlands initiative, through which universities and colleges in the region have reached out to nearly 100,000 teenagers.

When the national Aimhigher funding was axed more than three years ago, a collaboration between the University of Birmingham, Aston University, Birmingham City University and University College Birmingham, was one of a just handful of Aimhigher partnerships to continue in its work, uniquely funded by the partner Higher Education Institutions and local schools and colleges.

Aimhigher West Midlands will now receive a total of £1,140,000 from HEFCE over the next two years to extend its outreach work across the region by becoming a network of 12 higher education providers and every state-funded school and college in the West Midlands.

Mike Thompson, Aimhigher West Midlands’ Coordinator, who is based at the University of Birmingham, said: “In some parts of the West Midlands fewer than 1 in 10 young people enter university. We want to change that, so that any young person with the potential to benefit from a university education has the support they need to aim higher.”

Gail Rothnie, Head of Outreach at the University of Birmingham, said: “The University of Birmingham is committed to its Outreach work with students from year six primary through the secondary school phase, inspiring them to make informed choices about their future progression to Higher Education. Students from our programmes progress to many different universities, not just the University of Birmingham, and our involvement in the Aimhigher West Midlands partnership is further commitment to our support of progression to the sector in general.”

The new partnership aims to raise the aspirations and attainment of the region’s most economically deprived young people, with figures showing that students from the most advantaged areas remain nearly 10 times more likely to take up a place at a top university.

Professor Bashir Makhoul, pro vice-chancellor at Birmingham City University added: “University is a complete irrelevance for far too many young people, for whom in some cases the subject doesn’t ever figure in conversations at home. That’s why showing teenagers and younger children what higher education can do for them is crucial and transformative. This funding recognises what we in the West Midlands have never ceased comprehending – that outreach and joined up partnership working with so-called ‘rival’ universities is a sizeable part of the answer to a complex social and economic issue.”

Since the government’s 2011 abolition of funding for Aimhigher the West Midlands initiative has engaged with 160 schools and colleges and more than 8,000 young people, providing intensive support to more than 2,000 of the most deprived pupils. This is in addition to the 80,000 or more young people the four universities work with each year as part of their individual outreach work.

The Aimhigher West Midlands partnership covers an area in which 66% of schools and colleges have high proportions of pupils considered least likely to access higher education – nationally the figure is 29%.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

  • The HEFCE National Networks for Collaborative Outreach initiative forms part of the government’s national strategy for access and student success. This highlights the value and effectiveness of collaborative approaches in delivering outreach activity to schools and colleges, and notes that effective collaboration requires significant commitment and investment from partner institutions.
  • The Aimhigher West Midlands network will help every state-funded school and college in the region work more effectively with the following higher education providers: the University of Birmingham, Aston University, Birmingham City University, University College Birmingham, the University of Worcester, University of Wolverhampton, Solihull College, Hereford College of Arts, Walsall College, Newman University, Staffordshire University and South & City College Birmingham.