Sixth Formers celebrate graduating from The United Learning University Fellowship Programme
During the February half-term, the United Learning University Fellowship Programme celebrated its first graduate cohort, following a final two-day residential.
The Fellowship Programme is a year-long initiative funded by the United Learning Partnership Fund which aims to close the university access gap; currently only 24% of state educated students go on to university compared to 64% of those with private schooling. In partnership with Debate Mate, the programme is just one of a series of enrichment opportunities offered through the Partnership Fund to students and staff alike.
The first cohort of students was a pilot group made up of bright and ambitious Year 12 students from our South Coast schools. Sixth Formers from Shoreham Academy, Midhurst Rother College, Bournemouth Collegiate School and Canford School (an associate of the Partnership Fund) were chosen based on the strength of their applications and teacher testimonials. All the students demonstrated leadership potential and had aspirations to attend an academic university but for a diverse mix of subjects from Law to Politics to Earth Sciences.
The programme offers a unique opportunity to develop skills such as leadership, confidence and communication which are highly sought-after by university admissions tutors as well as employers. As part of this, students had the chance to build new relationships, practise collaborative and innovative problem-solving and hone their presentation skills – a combination that will serve them well beyond their school careers. Students were also treated to a talk from current undergraduates about the realities of university life.
The programme involved two residentials – the first was in Cambridge in 2015, and the second formed part of their ‘graduation’ in the February half-term. In the months between, participants designed their own leadership project with the aim of promoting Higher Education to younger students and then delivered this within their own schools.
The Sixth Formers’ projects included workshops with younger students – from Year 7s to Year 11s – in order to address common misconceptions about Higher Education, educate them on the course options available and explain how student finance can support young people to go to university.
One student said of the programme:
‘I feel I have learnt valuable skills that I can take to university with me and that will help me in the future.’
‘It was a really worthwhile experience, good for gaining new skills, especially working with Debate Mate.’
Kathryn Bridge, who leads on Higher Education and CPD at United Learning, said:
‘It is incredibly important that all our students are encouraged to be the best they can be and that we never put limits on their aspirations. The University Fellowship Programme seeks not only to open up university access to more students but to send out a wider message across our schools that it is a path available to anyone through hard work and determination.
‘Last week was the culmination of an exciting launch year for the programme. It was extremely gratifying to see all our Sixth Formers graduate having delivered some excellent successes in the promotion of Higher Education to their younger peers. The students were all exceptionally motivated and showed real talent, growing in confidence through the course of the year, so I am sure that they will take this experience as a stepping stone towards successful Higher Education careers.’