Student Success Summit: Joining the Dots, 13 November 2019, London

Action on Access and UUK are hosting a summit on student success and access.

The Access to HE and Student Success Summit: Joining the Dots from Action on Access, together with Universities UK, on 13 November. Be there or miss out on your this year’s rounded and informed view for all delegates of widening participation issues across the student journey; together with opportunities for delegate contribution to the Summit and to network.

More information can be found here, (spoiler alert, the cost is £285 for HEI and not for profit staff). 

Three respected and experienced key note speakers: Chris Millward, Director Fair Access and Participation, OfS; Helen Thorne, MBE, Director of External Relations at UCAS, Stephen Isherwood, Chief Executive of the Institute of Employers.

Choices of workshops: parallel sessions on the support and advice to widening participation students by advisers in Sixth Forms, the work of professional academic advisers, and the work of Student Unions.

Sessions on care leavers, beyond-institutional and collaborative work, embedding accessibility and compliance in online and digital content.

And a John Storan-facilitated guided discussion with experts on the wider and economic benefits of widening participation and improved student success and employability, i.e. examining the cost-effective Widening Participation Interventions.

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TUNDRA (Tracking Under-representation by Area)

TUNDRA london


First Thoughts and Observations of a new metric.

By Karina Berzins

The Office for Students (OfS) have just released a new experimental metric to examine HE participation geographically. While we are all familiar with the POLAR measure, TUNDRA is a similar measure, but with a number of differences which I will outline below.

Firstly, the OfS is right to release a new metric to examine area based participation, given the methodological flaws with POLAR4, in particular with the underlying population data. These figures were calculated using population estimates, which resulted in 8% of London MSOA’s (Middle Super Output Areas) having more than 100% participation rates. Of course, this is not possible and while these areas were pushed down to a 100% rate for the construction of the quintiles, this level of inaccuracy is extremely problematic given that POLAR4 is not only used as a metric for Universities APPs (Access and Participation Plans) but also as a metric for millions of pounds of NCOP (National Collaborative Outreach Programme) funding.

The greatest strength of TUNDRA in terms of its methodology is a much more rigorous accounting for the base populations. Here, data is collected from the Department for Education for all Key Stage 4 learners at mainstream state funded schools. The years of collection for these learners’ home addresses are 2010 to 2014, who are then picked up in the HESA (Higher Education Statistical Agency) data (using fuzzy matching) for the academic years 2012/13 to 2017/18. This of course brings TUNDRA much more up to date than POLAR4 which went up to the 2014/15 academic year.

So far so good. We have a much more credible base population, and an equally rigorous participation dataset. Of course, not all learners attend mainstream state education. In 2016 there were 518,432 attending Independent Schools, which represents approximately 7% of all learners. (see ISC Key Figures Report here).  While this is a minority, we do know that these learners are over-represented in Higher Education overall, and in particular at Oxbridge and Russell Group institutions. Due to this I would suggest that the OfS consider working with the independent school sector to include these learners in the dataset.

I do also have slight ideological objections to the decision to only include mainstream schools in the analysis – as this seems to pre-suppose that learners from special schools, or Pupil Referral Units are not going to enter Higher Education. In terms of Widening Participation (which is at the heart of why we develop all these metrics) this seems to me to be opposite of what we should be doing. Surely our task is to include these learners, and develop ways to encourage them into Higher Education if they choose to do so. I for one would welcome a participation measure that looks at those learners from PRUs, Special Schools and Secure Units.

While TUNDRA so far really does seem superior to POLAR4 due to the base populations, for me the England only focus is another weakness. POLAR4 was the first iteration of the measure that included all nations, so restricting TUNDRA to England only feels like a step backwards.

Finally, the TUNDRA method was sensitive to those MSOAs with a very low base population and suppressed areas with lower than 50 participants. In all there were only 27 of these. This is also an improvement on POLAR where it has been calculated that an individual in an MSOA with fewer than 50 base population can influence the overall calculation by 2 percentage points. The OfS has released a methodological note on this here. 

For me, the test of any new geographic based metric is to look at London – a large city with a lot of population movement, and a mix of wealthy and poor areas, often in close proximity. By examining the TUNDRA map (which is very slow to navigate) alongside the POLAR4 map, some interesting differences emerge.

TUNDRA london


POLAR4 London

It seems that by not including the independent schools, parts of West London move downwards in terms of participation. This is an interesting development, and may well lead to more accurate analyses of WP cohorts and their participation rates.

Of course all these are just first thoughts, and I will be looking at the underlying data set and comparing it with POLAR4 to see which areas have significant changes between the two methods. This will be the subject of my next blog post.

Overall – this is a good move by the OfS and at first glance TUNDRA seems to be a much more rigorous and robust metric. One wonders now though, when (if at all) will it replace POLAR4, and how will this affect NCOP funding and APP reporting for institutions.

I would love to hear what you think – please leave a message below.




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POLAR4 for Russell Group


We have recently completed a dashboard for use which takes the POLAR4 methodology and re-maps participation into HE for Russell Group institutions.  It has been noted that using POLAR for high tariff institutions was becoming increasingly problematic as a metric as the likelihood of learners coming from low participation neighbourhoods into these universities was small. This project was commissioned and funded by UCL.

While there are methodological problems with POLAR4 (particularly in terms of the use of ONS forecast data to establish the base populations) any new measure of participation needs to align with POLAR4 for the sake of accurate comparison.


POLAR4 differs from POLAR3 in two main ways. Firstly, the unit of geography that was used in the calculations of POLAR3 (and indeed POLAR and POLAR2) were parliamentary wards. For POLAR4 MSOAs are used (middle super output areas) which are units of geography that are based on population numbers, rather than parliamentary constituencies. This is preferable as the MSOAs have a more even distribution of population, whereby the minimum population is 5,000 and the mean average is 7,200. POLAR4 covers participation for the academic years 20010/11 through to 2014/15, thereby updating the participation rates of young learners (aged 18 and 19).

Alongside this, POLAR4 is the first iteration of POLAR to include all countries in the UK which has enables us to comment on participation rates in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for the first time.

We followed the POLAR4 methodology to calculate the participation rates of young learners by mission group – in this instance for Russell Group. We purchased the participation data from HESA for the five cohorts of young people who were aged 15 at the start of the school years that began from 2006 to 2011 (aged 18 or 19 when entering HE) between the years of 2009/10 and 2013/14 (aged 18) or between 2010/11 and 2014/15 (aged 19).

The baseline populations will be the same as POLAR4 and these data from the POLAR4 workbooks were used.

The geographies used were:

  • MSOA 2011 (England and Wales)
  • SOA 2011 (Northern Ireland)
  • Intermediate Zones 2001 (Scotland)

For the full POLAR4 methodology including the underlying population estimates, please see POLAR4 Classification.


The dashboard was developed in R and shiny.

It can be found by clicking here (and will open in a new window).

Due to the large file sizes, only the England maps were put online, although of course the calculations were done for all countries.

The map takes approximately 10 seconds to load (dependent on local network speeds) but once loaded there is no lag time at all in navigating the map.

dashboard snapshot

Despite the problems with the underlying population figures with POLAR4, the dashboard we have developed for the Russell Group institutions is rigorous in its comparison with the overall POLAR4 maps as we used the same methodology and the same underlying populations. Therefore the quintile shifts deal with comparative proportion of learners attending any versus Russell Group institutions, thereby sidestepping the issue of faulty population figures.

I am sure that many will find this version of POLAR4 useful and we hope to create dashboards for other mission groups.

Please feel free to contact us regarding this, or any other project.


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Perspectives on Access to Higher Education

Perspectives on Access to HE

By Anthony Hudson.

For colleagues with an interest in widening access and participation to higher education, the recently published: Perspectives on Access to Higher Education: Practice and Research, will be of value.

Access education has been through many changes since its beginnings in the late 1960s. Recent shifts in the academic landscape including standardization, grading, and new tensions in higher education raise difficult questions for educators regarding the future of access education.

This book critically examines various aspects of Access education from a historical perspective. It proposes that there are particular ‘Access’ values that are shared by practitioners that can be at odds with the needs of higher education. Wider questions concerning funding and accountability underpinned by neoliberalism have also had an impact on Access education. The authors, practitioners and researchers of Access education, gather their insights in this timely book, grounded in authentic experience. They explore the ways in which policies and procedures have been developed in light of these tensions. By drawing particular attention to the voices of Access practitioners and highlighting the current constraints around curriculum design this book will prove invaluable for leaders, administrators, researchers and practitioners in further and higher education.

About the authors

Samantha Broadhead is Head of Research at Leeds Arts University, UK. She has previously published work on widening participation in art and design education and is the co-author of Practical Wisdom and Democratic Education: Phronesis, Art and Non-traditional Students (Palgrave).

Rosemarie Davies works with university partners in the development of degree and higher apprenticeships at The Skills Company, UK. For over 30 years she has worked extensively with a variety of universities at the interface between further education and higher education.

Anthony Hudson is a Research Manager at Continuum, the Centre for Widening Participation Policy Studies at the University of East London (UEL), UK and is currently undertaking doctoral research on the identity of Access to HE tutors.

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Do undergraduate research internships really work?

Research Interns - Poster Event

By Anthony Hudson.

Earlier this evening my colleague, Aga Spytkowska, and I attended UEL’s Undergraduate Research Interns’ poster competition as part of our evaluation of the Undergraduate Research Internship Scheme.

Over 35 interns attended the event and presented a poster based on their internship. Whilst the posters showcased the work of individual interns and their supervisors, it also demonstrated the variety and quality of work being undertaken across academic schools, research institutes and services at UEL. Poster presentations are an excellent way of communicating research findings from projects, as well as outcomes from knowledge exchange projects. However, producing a poster is no easy endeavour. It requires clarity and creativity to produce succinct and accessible text, with carefully chosen graphics, an appropriate layout and appealing design.  Observing the poster presentations – the interaction between interns and attendees – provided valuable context for our evaluation.  To evaluate the current iteration of the internship scheme we are drawing on data from an online survey administered to all interns and supervisors, and interviews from a sample of participants.

A couple of colleagues attending the event asked me whether I thought research internships made a difference. Until we’ve completed our evaluation I was reluctant to answer. Instead, I suggested that they look around the room – crowded and buzzing, with poster presenters and attendees in animated conversation – by way of an answer.

Yes, that’s fine they said. ‘But does it really work?’ I shared my experience of the scheme as a supervisor. Our research centre, Continuum, was pleased to host undergraduate research interns in the first two years that the scheme was run. Our first intern obtained a good degree in psychology, progressed to postgraduate study and obtained a Distinction in her Master’s degree. She worked at UEL as a Learning Achievement Advisor and now runs a successful consultancy. Our second intern was awarded a first class undergraduate degree, secured a job in our research centre and progressed to postgraduate study, achieving a distinction in her Master’s degree.  Aga, was the second intern I had the privilege of supervising is now working with me to evaluate the internship scheme. So yes, from our perspective the internship scheme works!

As the evaluation progresses we’ll be posting thoughts and findings on our blog and welcome thoughts and comments.

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Can undergraduate research experiences help widen participation to postgraduate study?


By Anthony Hudson

Continuum is currently undertaking a small-scale study: Exploring and evaluating undergraduate research-based experiences. The research aims firstly, to explore academics’ perceptions of the value of research-based experiences for undergraduates. Secondly, to identify the barriers and enablers to establishing and supporting such experiences. Thirdly, to evaluate a particular research-based experience – the University of East London’s undergraduate research internship scheme – from the perspective of both undergraduate interns and academic supervisors.

Exploring how academics define undergraduate research may provide an understanding of the forms of engagement – the types of undergraduate research experience – that they view as being able to provide students with the necessary research skills (Brew and Mantai, 2017). The forms that undergraduate research experiences take range from apprentice-type internships, to course based experiences in the formal curriculum. Whilst the skills that undergraduates can gain from such experiences will vary, there is evidence that they facilitate progression to postgraduate study (Moore, Avant, and Austin 2008).  The Panel on Fair Access to the Professions (2009) reported that postgraduate qualifications were increasingly becoming the gateway for careers in a growing number of professions. Research skills as Hudson (2013:151) noted: ‘…are not the preserve of those who wish to follow an academic career; they are central to the knowledge economy and professions in which graduates seek employment.’ In a subsequent blog, we will be exploring how such schemes and programmes benefit institutions and individuals – supervisors and undergraduates.

To date, there has been limited research on the lived experience of undergraduates undertaking research internships and course based research experiences. Developing an understanding of their preconceptions and experience may enable institutions to design internships and programmes that meet the needs of their students. Similarly being aware of students’ preconceptions may enable the institution in general and supervisors in particular, to manage their expectations. Whilst internship programmes and undergraduate research experiences are well established in many Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the United States – and to a lesser extent in Community Colleges – students from underrepresented groups are often excluded. Research by Bangera and Brownnell (2014) focussing on STEM undergraduates in the United States notes that underrepresented students are excluded for a number of reasons ranging from: awareness of such opportunities to financial and personal barriers. This is a cause for concern especially when independent research experiences are seen as a pre-requisite for STEM undergraduates who wish to progress to Graduate School.

Returning to the UK, it seems salient to look at the impact of policy responses to widen participation to postgraduate study and in particular the introduction of postgraduate student loans. Non-means tested loans of up to £10,000 (to cover tuition and living costs) for postgraduate students were introduced in the academic year 2016/17 and loans of up to £25,000 for doctoral students from the current academic year, 2018/19. Drawing on data from the HESA Student record and the Intentions After Graduation Survey, the Office for Students notes: ‘that the proportion of students who state their intention to continue their studies and end up going into postgraduate education has increased’ (OfS, 2018). Since the loans were introduced in 2016/17 there has been an increase of 22,000 students to eligible master’s courses, an increase of 31 per cent from 2015/16. Whilst this has not had impact in terms of gender; the proportion of black students increased from 8 per cent in 2015/16 to 11 per cent in 2016/17; and the proportion of students from the lowest participation area (POLAR 4 quintile 1) increased from 9 per cent to 10 per cent of the young postgraduate entrant population. Will these modest increases continue? Or will we see, as Wakeling & Laurison (2017) argue, drawing on Raferty & Hout’s (1993) thesis of Maximally Maintained Inequality  (MMI) that as initial access to HE increases, inequality of access moves to the next level, in this case – postgraduate study. Based on data from the Labour Force Survey, Wakeling & Laurison (2017:552) conclude: ‘that social class inequalities not only persist at postgraduate level, but have widened over time.’  It would seem as Wakeling et al (2017) note that institutions with a demonstrable commitment to widening participation will be key in widening postgraduate participation

Turning back to the question: Can undergraduate research experiences help widen participation to postgraduate study? Certainly, if structural barriers, such as finance, are reduced or removed, then research experiences are more likely to have an impact. In addition to skills development they may help foster or clarify students’ interests and encourage them to consider postgraduate study. From our small-scale study we hope to explore these structural issues; the barriers and enablers to implementation and delivery of research experiences; as well as the barriers and enablers to participation in such schemes, particularly for learners from underrepresented groups. You’ll have to keep following our blog posts during the course of the study to find out whether structures and processes reproduce inequality or help to widen participation.


Bangera, G. & Brownell, S. E.  (2014). “Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences Can Make Scientific Research More Inclusive.” CBE-Life Sciences Education. 13(4): 602–606.

Brew, A. & Mantai, L. (2017). “Academics’ perceptions of the challenges and barriers to implementing research-based experiences for undergraduates.” Teaching in Higher Education. 22(5): 551-568.

Hudson, A. (2013). “The undiscovered country: widening participation to postgraduate study”, in Hill, M., Hudson, A., Jones, P., Renton, R., Saunders, D.  & Storan, J. (eds.) Widening Access to Higher Education in Divided Communities. FACE: London.

Moore, L. S., Avant, F. & Austin, S.F. ( 2008). “Strengthening Undergraduate Social Work Research: Models and Strategies.” Social Work Research. 32(4): 231–35.

Office for Students (OfS). (2018). The effect of postgraduate loans. Available at:  Date accessed: 18 May 2018.

Panel on Fair Access to the Professions (2009) Unleashing Aspiration: The Final Report of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions. Cabinet Office: London.

Raftery, A.E. & Hout, M. 1993 “Maximally Maintained Inequality: Expansion, Reform and Opportunity in Irish Higher Education, 1921–1975.” Sociology of Education. 66 (1): 41–62.

Wakeling, P., Hampden-Thompson, G. &  Hancock, S. (2017). “Is undergraduate debt an impediment to postgraduate enrolment in England?” British Educational Research Journal. doi:10.1002/berj.3304. Accessed: 18 October 2017.

Wakeling, P. & Laurison, D. (2017). “Are postgraduate qualifications the ‘new frontier of social mobility’?” British Journal of Sociology. 68(3):532-555.

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London Schools’ Data Dashboard

school map

I am pleased to announce the launch of the updated London Schools’ Data Dashboard, developed by Continuum and funded by UCL.

Please find the link here: it will open in a new window.

The last dashboard was used by many institutions to help outreach teams target particular schools and cohorts for their outreach work. The feedback that we have received from colleagues has been very good, and we  had over 1,300 individual visitors to the old dashboard. The new dashboard is an excellent resource that brings together complicated contextual data for each school and simplifies it so that those who are not data scientists themselves can see an overview of each school, and print out a one page .pdf with all the information they need.

For the updated dashboard we have based the maps on the new POLAR4 areas and used the following contextual data assigned to each school/college under investigation:

  • Type of school
  • School address and other contact details including phone number and webpage
  • Gender of learners
  • Numbers of learners broken down by gender
  • Free School Meal data
  • POLAR3 profile based on HEFCE participation data
  • KS4 achievement data, including vocational equivalents (where applicable)
  • KS5 achievement data, including vocational equivalents (where applicable)
  • Ethnicity data
  • English as a second language data
  • IMD data

school eg

The dashboard has been built with all state funded secondary schools, academies and colleges (including sixth form colleges) in London.

Please feel free to use this resource and share widely with colleagues.


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Practical Wisdom and Democratic Education

Practical Wisdom and Democratic Education

By Anthony Hudson.

For colleagues with an interest in democratic education and the experiences of mature learners, the recently published: Practical Wisdom and Democratic Education: Phronesis, Art and Non-Traditional Students, will be of value.

Drawing on the Aristotelian concept of phronesis, or practical wisdom, the book builds on the work of Basil Bernstein to analyse the stories of four mature students studying for degrees in art and design. The authors, Dr Sam Broadhead and Prof. Maggie Gregson, argue that democratic education should allow participants to feel enhanced, included and able to engage in order to create a constructive and reciprocal dialogue.

Since many vocational and academic disciplines require deliberation and the ability to draw on knowledge, character and experience, it is important that learners do not feel that their experience disadvantages them. However, as Bernstein (1970) noted ‘education cannot compensate for society.’ Fulfilling learners’ pedagogic rights alone is not sufficient, institutions and policy makers have a moral duty  to listen to students marginalised by current practices.


Bernstein, B. (1970). ‘Education cannot compensate for society.’ New Society, 15 (387): 344-47.


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University prospectuses misrepresent BME students.

pexels-photo-267586By Dom Jackson-Cole


Prospectuses have been identified as important marketing tools for universities trying to attract potential postgraduate students (Mowjee, 2013). However, researchers in the UK and the US found that prospectuses were misleading their readers in terms of their use of data (Bradley, 2013) or images to represent diversity (Jaschik, 2008; Osei-Kofi, Torres, & Lui, 2013; Vasagar, 2010). I investigated this further by conducting a small scale textual and visual analysis of prospectuses of five research intensive universities for 2016/17 academic year. Prospectuses were read and eye-scanned and then coded with attention given to relations of power and privilege and how these were reproduced by discourses of historical, sociological and political contexts, using Critical Race Theory as the main theoretical framework (Gillborn, 2012; Rollock & Gillborn, 2011). From this the following themes were identified:

Lack of explicit references to ‘race’ and diversity

In none of the five prospectuses the words “race”, “ethnicity or “ethnic minority” were used outside of the course descriptions, such as sociology or history. The words ‘diversity” and “equality” also did not feature in the context of ‘race’ and ethnicity but in course/ department descriptions, for example “diversity of topics”. Only one university described the city where it was located as “vibrant and diverse”. This signal the attempted colour-blind/ post-racial character of the publications, in which issues of ‘race’ simply don’t feature explicitly and are wrongly (intentionally or unintentionally) assumed to be non-existent.

Global transfer of whiteness through research

A lot of prominence in the publications was given to research excellence of universities. However, the research case studies presented either disregarded ‘race’ related investigations, deeming them as not worthy of mentioning, or promoted the discourse of superior knowledge being produced by White people and transferred onto global South. In one prospectus highlighting the global reach of the institution’s research such words as “support development of their school system”, “Improve nutrition”, “improve the quality of life”, “help remote forest communities” were used when talking about cooperation with non-Western countries. At the same time, research collaborations with Western Countries such as the USA, Australia and European states talked about “sharing knowledge” or “partnership” and referred to highly advanced STEM research. Thus, the Western countries were portrayed as equal partners in technologically advanced research, while the countries from the global South were being supposedly helped by the knowledge transfers from White to non-White nations.

Extracurricular activities – diversity at the periphery

All the prospectuses mentioned extracurricular activities as an attractive offer supplementing the core activities. Imagery of ethnic diversity was popular in these sections among descriptions of cultural festivals, nightlife, and sports. This could suggest that diversity is treated as a fun, extra-curricular feature rather than being at the core of the institutions of teaching and learning.

Visual (mis)representation

The prospectuses over-represented BME students’ presence compared to their actual student demographics. While, this may be seen positively as a way to build an inclusive and encouraging image of the institution in order to draw in potential BME students, it is not genuine and may backfire when students choose the institution and the reality does not meet their expectations – potentially impacting their sense of belonging and satisfaction. However, images of BME staff were under-represented. It can suggest that BME staff are not seen as worthy of mentioning.

BME as relationally inferior

In terms of the distribution of the photographs of BME students these were mostly featured in the sections dedicated to international students, sports and support. This can be seen as very stereotypical, and can send a message that people of colour at the universities are only or mostly international students. Along with a higher concertation of BME images in the sections to do with student support (e.g. childcare, studying skills, mental health support) this plays into the overall implicit discourses of BME students seen as somehow lesser than White students and needing help.

On three out of four occasions images with BME and White people in one-on-one situations suggested it was the White person explaining something to the BME individual, and only one image had a person of colour seemingly explaining something to a White person. This may convey a message that BME people at universities are the receivers of knowledge, rather than the ones producing it. In other situations, BME people were simply absent. Thus, BME people in the prospectuses were omitted or mostly seen as lesser.


The above analysis demonstrates how whiteness was the dominant ideology informing representations of BME staff and students in all of the five university prospectuses investigated. By over-representing BME students in photographs, while at the same time paying no attention to ethnic diversity in the written texts, the prospectuses were shown to be disingenuous and misleading in their portrayal of campus realities, at most engaging in a superficial way with issues of ‘race’. The concentration of images of BME people in sections dedicated to international students, student support and extra-curricular activities, as well as relational positioning of BME people as knowledge consumers rather than producers contributed to the racist traditions of stereotypical and infantilising discourses of BME people.


Gillborn, D. (2012). Education and institutional racism. London: Institute of Education Press.

Jaschik, S. (2008, July 2). Viewbook Divesity vs. Real Diversity. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from

Mowjee, B. (2013). Are postgraduate students ‘rational choosers’? An investigation of motivation for graduate study amongst international students in England. Research in Comparative and International Education, 8(2), 193–213.

Osei-Kofi, N., Torres, L. E., & Lui, J. (2013). Practices of whiteness: racialization in college admissions viewbooks. Race Ethnicity and Education, 16(3), 386–405.

Rollock, N., & Gillborn, D. (2011). Critical Race Theory (CRT). British Educational Research Association. Retrieved from

Vasagar, J. (2010, December 6). Twenty-one Oxbridge colleges took no black students last year. The Guardian. Retrieved from

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Peer mentoring in College HE

Mentoring - Word Cloud

By Dr Paul Demetriou-Crane and Lynsey Lapwood.

In this blog post Dr Paul Demetriou-Crane and Lynsey Lapwood, Havering College of Further and Higher Education (Havering College) report on establishing a peer mentoring scheme for College HE (HE in FE) students.

With two local campuses, several satellite sites and outreach centres in the London Borough of Havering the college is the largest provider of College HE in London. In the current academic year (2017/18) over 400 learners are undertaking degree level study. Learners are drawn from a wide catchment area covering East London, Kent and Essex. Of these learners 39% are from disadvantaged areas and 23% progress internally from level 3 courses at the college. The college has a strong commitment to widening participation and student support, of which peer mentoring is one example. Peer mentoring not only benefits mentees, by providing support at a critical points in their learning journey; it also provides mentors with the opportunity to gain and develop a range of interpersonal skills .

The one-year peer mentoring pilot started in October 2017 and will end in June 2018. The rationale for the pilot was threefold. Firstly an increasing number of learner on levels 4, 5 and 6 of the foundation degree (FD) in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools, were struggling with academic work. Secondly, with an increase in student numbers teachers were unable to provide individual support. Thirdly with a reduction in hours allocated for tutorial, support outside of the classroom was also reduced. The aims of the pilot study are to develop a peer scheme to support struggling learners and secondly, to evaluate the success of the scheme from the perspective of both mentees and mentors.

In the first 4 weeks of term, tutors on the FD in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools, identified several learners across Levels 4 level, 5 and 6 who might benefit from being mentored. Students included those whose diagnostic assessments in English and maths revealed skills gaps; consistently attained low grades (<49%) and those perceived to lack academic confidence. A total of ten students volunteered to participate in the pilot study: five level 4 students as mentees and five level 5/6 students as peer mentors.

Mentors received a short training two hour training session on coaching and mentoring in to supplement written guidelines on participation and confidentiality. In recognition of this they received a certificate of attendance. During the pilot Mentors will be expected to provide regular blogs detailing their experiences to be posted on the college’s Moodle site. The mentors will be supported by six -monthly group meetings of one hour, facilitated by the researchers. This will be an opportunity for them to feedback on challenges and concerns as well as highlight successes.  Both mentors and mentees will also have the opportunity to meet privately with the researchers if necessary.

In addition to the mentors’ blog posts both mentors and mentees will be asked to provide feedback by completing a questionnaire at two points in time; December 2017 and June 2018. These self-completion questionnaires will be used to explore their experiences of the mentoring process to evaluate its effectiveness in terms of student support.

Dr Paul Demetriou-Crane and Lynsey Lapwood recently delivered a presentation:         ‘MKO – beyond Vygotsky -adult peer mentoring in HE at an FE college’ at a seminar jointly organised by Continuum and the Learning & Skills Research Network (LSRN) London & South East, which was hosted at UEL. A copy of their presentation can be downloaded by clicking on the link: Peer Mentoring

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