A new £22 million scheme involving over 200 higher education institutions and reaching 4,300 secondary schools and colleges aims to encourage more young people into higher education.
The National Networks for Collaborative Outreach (NNCO) will deliver a nationally co-ordinated approach to working with schools, universities and colleges to help people access higher education. Local and regional providers of higher education have come together to form the networks, ensuring comprehensive coverage across England.
Thirty-five local networks will cover the whole of England. Each network will appoint a single point of contact to help teachers and advisers find out about higher education outreach activity in their area and to provide general advice about progression into higher education. Three more networks will offer advice and support to specific groups of students at national level, including older learners wishing to continue or return to study and care leavers.
The local networks will host web-sites with information about outreach activity, and signpost other information to support schools and colleges as they prepare their students for higher education.
The networks are funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and managed by HEFCE.
Greg Clark, Minister for Universities and Science, welcomed the networks, saying:
'Higher education is a transformational experience and the future of the UK economy depends on having highly-trained graduates so it is vital that young people have the right information about progressing into higher education. This programme will ensure that schools and colleges across England can help their students learn about higher education in the classroom, online and through local outreach activity.
'A record number of students entered higher education in 2014, with entry rates for students from disadvantaged backgrounds increasing by over 10% to its highest ever level. However there is still more work to do to ensure all students who want to study hard can benefit, irrespective of their background."
Madeleine Atkins, Chief Executive of HEFCE, said:
‘We have been impressed by the higher education sector’s response to this scheme, which means that vital information about how to progress into higher education will be available to people across England. We set out to establish coverage of state-funded secondary schools and sixth form colleges and, through the support of the sector, this will be achieved.
‘As well as providing co-ordinated coverage of outreach activity, we are keen that the NNCO scheme contributes innovative approaches to the interaction between higher education institutions and schools and colleges. We will be evaluating the scheme to ensure that innovation can be shared amongst networks and quickly benefit schools and colleges and the students they support.’
HEFCE has launched a webpage, which will enable schools and colleges to find their local network.