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Widening access strengthening community links

A range of dynamic and growing widening access partnerships are part of the University’s strong links with the local community.

The Widening Access Team is leading implementation of University-wide measures to improve attainment and to provide support for pupils from local Communities-First areas and other groups without a strong tradition of participation in higher education.

Pamela Clarke, Head of Widening Access, said: “Staff and students throughout Cardiff University are really working together to provide support and encouragement for people from disadvantaged backgrounds to gain a university education.”

A step-up for young people

The core of the University’s Widening Access work with schools is the University’s Step-Up schemes, encompassing Geography, Health, Law, Maths, Science, Modern European Languages, Music, and Welsh.  The schemes build relationships with pupils over a 3-year period from Year 11 to Year 13. Activities include GCSE revision classes, subject taster days, residential summer schools, skills sessions, student mentoring and applying to higher education days.

Jeff Cuthbert, Welsh Assembly Member for Caerphilly

Jeff Cuthbert, Welsh Assembly member for Caerphilly, with year ten students from Lewis School, Pengam, at a “Hands On Science Event”, giving teenagers first-hand experience of science, maths and health-related subjects at university.

More than a thousand pupils from 28 secondary schools are currently engaged in the 3-year schemes and support is provided by more than 50 Cardiff University student mentors and 100 Student Ambassadors.  Last year, almost 21,000 contact hours were dedicated to the pupils engaged in the scheme.

Activities designed to raise aspirations also include provision of the Cardiff Capital City of Learning Higher Education Roadshow, which visits Year 10 pupils in South Wales schools, and participation in a variety of community events.

The University is also a full and active partner with other local higher education institutions. Activities include a direct assistance scheme in which more than 30 Cardiff University student mentors provide weekly classroom-based support in Mathematics and English to 180 school pupils in three Cardiff schools. One objective of the scheme is to boost pupils' performance at GCSE level in these subjects.

Practical workshops demonstrating key skills needed for the health professions are run frequently at the University and are also taken out to local schools. Pupils experience resuscitation techniques, suturing, monitoring blood pressures and measuring lung capacity. These provide an insight into studying health courses at Cardiff and also promote the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Every year the University also hosts Languages GCSE Revision Days covering French, German, Spanish, Italian and Welsh for pupils in schools in neighbourhoods with low participation in higher education.   The pupils are participants in the web-based ‘Languagezone’ project which supports pupils studying European Languages as a second language.

Helping adults into education

Interpretation training at the Centre for Lifelong Learning

Interpretation training at the Centre for Lifelong Learning

Within the University’s Centre for Lifelong Learning staff undertake a variety of activities aimed at raising the aspirations and attainment of adults from disadvantaged communities.

An innovative mentoring project was piloted by the Centre this year.  After a two-day course, current mature students were matched with mature students studying Access to Higher Education in the local college, Coleg Glan Hafren. Mentors helped Access students develop their study skills and gain a valuable insight into student life.

The Centre has also been delivering initial training to local interpreters for more than ten years, developing their skills to support members of their community access public services. The Centre, in collaboration with the major statutory service providers in Cardiff, has now been successful in securing funding to research and develop a full programme of Public Service Interpreter training.

Supporting students through their courses

Maths advice at a GCSE Easter revision class

Maths advice at a GCSE Easter revision class

Staff within the University’s Registry and Student Support Directorate also provide an important range of support to students in relation to learning and teaching with initiatives such as the Accessible Curriculum Review, the centralised Mathematics Support Service – set up by the School of Mathematics -and with new online services to improve the student experience.

The University’s Student Support Centres help all students to complete their chosen qualification to their maximum ability and can be a critical support for those from low-participation backgrounds.

The University’s Financial Support Team last year awarded more than £1m in grants to students from Financial Contingency Funds. Use of these funds is strictly governed and means tested and the vast majority of awards were to people from low income backgrounds who were, at the time, at risk of leaving University for financial reasons.

The University has also placed an emphasis on support for students with disabilities and long term medical conditions as part of the Widening Access and Retention Strategy. The Disability and Dyslexia Service is currently working with more than 1,800 University students. A specialist mental health advisor is also now available to help students with long term conditions to access the support they are entitled to.