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Promoting Access and Widening Participation in the Open University, UK

Promoting Access and Widening Participation in the Open University, UK

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Promoting Access and Widening Participation in the Open University, UK

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  1. Promoting Access and Widening Participation in the Open University, UK ACE 2007 Annual Meeting

  2. The changing context of widening participation in the UK • Government target for 50% participation of those aged 18-30 by 2010 (The Future of Higher Education, White Paper 2003) Latest participation rates only 43% in England (53% in Europe), OECD • Increasing concern about the deep and persistent educational divide between advantaged and disadvantaged young people (Young Participation in Higher Education, Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), January 2005)

  3. The impact of “top up fees” in full time universities, and associated settlement for the part time sector: e.g. £29.4 million injected into the OU • The increased emphasis on skills and employer engagement(Raising Skills, Improving Life Chances: FE Reform White Paper, 2006, the Leitch Review of Skills, Prosperity for all in the global economy – world class skills, 2006 and Secretary of State’s annual grant letter, 2006) “the UK must raise its game and set itself a greater ambition to have a world-class skills base by 2020”(Leitch )

  4. The development of Aimhigher partnerships, Lifelong Learning Networks and Higher Level Skills Pathfinders • Expectations of greater accountability from HEFCE and the need to align our measures with those of HEFCE

  5. The Open University The University’s mission To promote educational opportunity and social justice by providing high-quality university education to all who wish to realise their ambitions and fulfil their potential Strategic priorities To promote fair access to all It is vital to our core purpose that we continue actively to encourage and support the successful participation of all those who wish take up opportunities for higher education, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds or from under-represented groups

  6. Core Values • We are open to all and we value diversity. We are committed to supporting the participation of those who have been previously disadvantaged in their pursuit of education • We believe in the transforming power of education. We are committed to removing barriers to participation of those who have been previously disadvantaged in their pursuit of education and to stimulating and supporting people’s engagement in learning throughout life

  7. How are we doing? • 44% of our new undergraduate students have low previous educational qualifications (i.e. less than two ‘A’ Levels which is the standard entry requirement for conventional universities) • 10.8% of our new undergraduate students come from black and minority ethnic groups • 6.3% of our undergraduate students have disabilities (All figures for 2005/6)

  8. Findings from research • The need to mainstream widening participation, and for universities to focus on changing the institution as well as on outreach work (From the Margins to the Mainstream, UUK/SCOP, 2005) • Different patterns of participation for working class students (From life crisis to lifelong learning: Rethinking working class “drop-out” from higher education, Quinn, J. et al, JRF, 2005) • The need to focus on the life course of individuals and on the family unit (“Barriers Review” for HEFCE, Gorard, 2006)

  9. The OU’s Widening Participation Action Plan, 2006-9 Within the context of our mission, our two priority target groups are:- • Black and minority ethnic students (currently 10.8% new entrants in OU against sector average of 16.1%) • Students from lower socio-economic groups, defined as students without previous HE qualifications and who live in the 25% most deprived areas, as measured by the index of multiple deprivation (currently 13.5% new entrants) A lifecycle approach Focus on recruitment, retention and attainment – success!

  10. The OU’s Widening Participation Action Plan 2006-9 continued Objectives • To develop the University’s capacity to widen participation • To raise aspirations and increase opportunities for study at HE level and facilitate entry to OU study for students who are under- represented in the OU and in HE nationally • To support these students in achieving their personal and professional objectives • To ensure that the OU curriculum includes courses and programmes which are accessible to and meet the needs of learners from the WP audiences being targeted Widening participation is an institution-wide responsibility

  11. What are we doing to re-align our activity? • New University structures, including the revised strategic plan (OU Futures document), a new Widening Participation Advisory Group, a new Widening Participation Management Group and a new evaluation officer post • An emphasis on working in partnership, with community groups, workers unions, schools, workplaces and colleges in communities which meet the target criteria • Continued development of the Openings Programme and of Foundation Degrees

  12. Pro-active interventions to aid retention • Financial support strategies • Personal Computing Scheme • Relevant curriculum • Proactive support • Mentor schemes • Monitoring progress • Additional support

  13. Some challenges We need to: • Increasingly target resources at students from lower socio-economic groups and BME students • Take the university to the student rather than expect the student to come to the university • Become a more diverse university – in terms of staff composition and institutional culture • Get better at working in partnership, identifying the agendas of other agencies and presenting our offer accordingly • Provide support tailored to individual need and address the digital divide • Get better at co-ordinating activity across different units in the university

  14. Christina LloydHead of Teaching and Learner SupportThe Open UniversityWalton HallMilton KeynesMK7 6AA