16th August 1999





The University of Lincolnshire & Humberside is breaking new ground by encouraging children as young as eight to think about studying at university.


Since it was launched in 1995 the Access to HE project has been arranging visits for children from primary and secondary schools serving Hull’s most disadvantaged communities. The hope is that a positive experience at an early age will result in more pupils from underprivileged backgrounds considering higher education as an option.


Year Four, Five and Six pupils from ten Hull primary schools had a taste of life at university during a series of visits in June which featured counting to 10 in Japanese, Macbeth workshops and Internet sessions.


“The feedback from the participating schools is that the kids get a tremendous fillip out of their visits,” said John Knowles, who co-ordinates the Access to HE project at the University of Lincolnshire & Humberside in Hull. “They’re intensely motivating - they tell these kids that they can aspire to higher education, that they can cope with it.”


Universities are still failing to attract enough students from working-class backgrounds, according to Mr Knowles. “The vast majority of students going into higher education don’t decide to go - they just go as a matter of course,” he said. “My gut reaction is that the huge expansion of higher education has served to recruit large numbers of poorly qualified middle-class students rather than under-qualified working-class students.

“The standard route to university is a marathon with a high jump at the end of it, and the only thing that counts is how high you jump,” he said. “Your average middle-class kid has been prepared for it from birth, and they get to do their marathon in lycra running shorts and Nike trainers.

“The majority of our kids, on the other hand, don’t even realise that there is a high jump at the end, and they have to run their marathon in cut-down jeans and old plimsolls. We’ve tried to make university entry for them a bit more like orienteering, so that they know there are certain goals and targets which they have to reach.”


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University of Lincolnshire & Humberside - Access to HE, contd


Access visits for children as young as eight feature such exercises as spot-the-lecturer and a comparison of the Vice Chancellor’s suite with their own headmaster’s office.


Visits by pupils from Hull’s secondary schools tackle more weighty issues - past projects have ranged from journalism and marketing through tourism and television production to gender and social class issues.


Pupils studying for their GCSEs are also given a conditional offer of a place at ULH and can accumulate admission credits for a record of achievement which can be added to their A-level scores.


Additional notes for editors


·     Only one state secondary school in Hull has a sixth form


·     Eight of the 24 pupils who took part in the pilot Access to HE project have now graduated, or are about to graduate, from universities up and down the UK


·     The University of Lincolnshire & Humberside was placed 12th out of 76 in a league table ranking institutions by their success in widening access to higher education. The table was published by The Times Higher Education Supplement on Friday 5th March 1999


·     The Access to HE scheme was identified last year in From Elitism to Inclusion, a report by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, as a first-class example of how best to widen access to higher education.


·     John Knowles was at Westminster in January to brief before the All-Party Group on Lifelong Learning on the university’s Access to Higher Education programme


·     The scheme was funded for the first three years by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. Now funding comes from Hull CityVision. Wyke College in Hull seconds John Knowles to run the project from a base at the University of Lincolnshire & Humberside


Jez Ashberry, Press and Media Relations Manager, University of Lincolnshire & Humberside (tel: 01522 886042)