Universities changing the lives of young people in the West Midlands

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A partnership of six West Midlands universities is broadening the horizons of young people across the region.

Aimhigher, which is part of the Office for Student’s national Uni Connect programme, consists of Aston University, Birmingham City University, Newman University, University College Birmingham, University of Birmingham and University of Worcester.

Chaired by University of Birmingham Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Kathy Armour, the partnership works with students from across the region who are typically underrepresented in Higher Education to help them effectively plan their future.

Evidence suggests that Aimhigher learners, who are based in local schools, are more than 1.5 times more likely to get a university place than their peers.

Aimhigher Manager Bal Rana said: “Higher education changes the life chances of students, strenghtens our economy and enriches everyone in our society.  Aimhigher helps to ensure that young people with the potential to benefit from higher education have the opportunity to do so, regardless of their background.”

Aimhigher has supported more than 16,000 young people across the region since January 2017 and helps them to:

  • Become motivated and confident about their learning and career progression
  • Explore the world of higher education and what it might mean for them
  • Make informed decisions about their future.

Recent findings suggest that the scheme means that students are more likely to apply to university, it increases their knowledge and awareness of their options, improves behaviour, confidence, motivation and attitude towards education.

Connor, now aged 17 and in his final year of A Levels, first got involved with Aimhigher Plus support in Year 10 and has seen a significant impact on his educational and social development as a result.

Connor said: “Aimhigher’s support has allowed me to flourish into a hardworking individual, as well as boosting my confidence and pushing me to work towards goals which I wasn’t aware I could reach. I am now completely informed on the benefits of going to University and can’t wait to apply to study Chemical Engineering once I finish my A Levels. Aimhigher is an invaluable asset to any student who can access it. I have huge ambitions of going to uni to study a Master’s degree as well as other goals which include getting into Politics and writing.”

Connor’s full story can be found in notes to editors below.

Notes to editors

For further information, please contact Head of Communications and Engagement (Infrastructure) Sally Brooks on +44 (0)121 414 3984.

Connor’s story

Connor had been described by teachers as ‘academically brilliant and capable’ but despite this he wasn’t achieving his full potential. Connor had been a victim of bullying in his secondary school and the impact on his confidence was holding him back. He was struggling to fit in and find his place amongst his peers. Connor was exploring the idea of university but his low self-esteem combined with lack of understanding of the processes and options were a barrier to him succeeding in school.

In year 10, the introduction of the NCOP programme, now known as Uni Connect, gave Connor the opportunity to shine.  His engagement in Aimhigher Plus’s diverse offer had a significant impact on his social and education development, bringing him together with a range of like-minded young people and transformed education into a positive experience. 

Connor’s engagements with the programme included:

  • Being a key member of Student Voice, forming friendships and developed his public speaking skills by presenting at conferences and events.
  • Attending the UniFest three-day residential at University College Birmingham where he got an inspiring insight into university life and importance of succeeding in school.
  • The Revision Weekend, which helped Connor develop techniques to tackle his most challenging subjects and boost attainment.
  • University Masterclasses where he developed his understanding of the benefits of HE, full range of options and how to apply.
  • 1:1 mentoring for guidance and encouragement to overcome social and educational challenges and succeed.

The Aimhigher Progression Ambassador Connor’s school said: “Aimhigher has impacted Connors life in a significant way. It has massively boosted his confidence and belief in himself. His motivation to succeed has increased through his engagement and in turn has pushed him to work incredibly hard at his exams to achieve his ambitions.”

Connor is now a hard working A-Level student studying maths, physics and chemistry at a local college. With his rising confidence Connor’s involvement continued to progress from participant to advocate, first as a member of the Student Voice forum and latterly being elected as chair of student council at his college.  In this role Connor has been working with senior staff at his college to develop an engagement strategy for Uni Connect students to ensure other students have access to the valuable support and opportunities that made a difference in his education journey.