Study Higher Annual Access Conference: Friday 25th September 2020

Unlocking Lockdown: Practical approaches to moving university outreach forwards

This event is no longer live, however, all recordings are available to view below.

Hosted online by Study Higher and Buckinghamshire New University.

Since lockdown was implemented due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak in March 2020 uncertainty has enshrined all aspects of education-related decision making. The higher education (HE) community are now faced with the immutable fact of the growing inequality gap for students from widening participation (WP) backgrounds and a dearth of concrete answers about what the future of HE and WP will look like.

The start of a new academic year was an opportune time to consider how – as a sector – we might be able to modify our practice to better access and retain WP students by building a sense of belonging within HE for diverse groups in the post-pandemic world. This virtual conference aimed to ‘unlock lockdown’ by exploring the impact of Covid-19 on work to support and increase access to HE of young people, and to provide participants with useful and practical insights and ideas to tackle barriers to HE entry in the new world order. Participants were invited to engage in discussions which reflect on past practice, understand where we are now, and to focus attention on the future of WP and outreach and how we might transform practice for long-term success in the post-Covid era.

We had an exciting line up of speakers who shared their views on the strategic factors we need to address ahead. All recordings are available to view below. 

10:00     Welcome

Professor Nick Braisby

Vice-Chancellor, Buckinghamshire New University

Professor Gavin Brooks

Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Buckinghamshire New University


OfS Expectations for the Year Ahead

Chris Millward, Director for Fair Access and Participation at the Office for Students


Challenging Structural Bias in Education

Sara Khan, Vice President Liberation and Equality, NUS

11:25 Workstream sessions

View a workstream (see handbook) and hear from 3 practitioners sharing practical solutions to some of the problems that have arisen from the response to Covid- 19. There were 4 sessions to choose from which ran simultaneously.

Workstream 1-Student Voice: Responding to Remote Learners’ Needs

Developing Student Ambassadors, Winchester University

Unlocking Lockdown through Literature: Giving Students Voice in a Pandemic, University of East Anglia

Emergency Remote Teaching during the Coronavirus Epidemic, Strathmore University Kenya

(see handbook for more info)


Workstream 2-Innovative Ways of Working with Schools: Practical Perspectives from a Pandemic

Embedding Widening Participation in Schools’ Virtual Work, University of Surrey and Kings College Guildford

European Connect and the Book Quest, University of Surrey

(see handbook for more info)


*Unfortunately, due to a technical issue, Jessica Cook (Practical Solutions to Overcoming Barriers to Accessing Careers Advice and Guidance, The Careers Lady) was unable to present on the day.

Workstream 3-Digital Belonging: Taking Outreach Events Online

Virtual Animal Club, Royal Veterinary College

Virtual Debating During the Covid -19 Lockdown, University of Kent

Virtual Summer School- Creating a Sense of Belonging, Oxford Brookes University

(see handbook for more info)

Workstream 4-Different Perspectives: Student Engagement and Empowerment

Keeping Students Engaged in a Virtual Setting: UniConnect in an FE setting, Go Higher West Yorkshire

Building Digital Confidence: Delivering Online Outreach Across the Generations, Birkbeck – University of London

Tackling Barriers to Progression, Slough and Eton CofE Business and Enterprise College

(see handbook for more info)

12:25 Lunch

13:45 Welcome back

Professor Elizabeth Cleaver
Pro Vice-Chancellor, Education and Digital, Buckinghamshire New University


Overcoming the challenges of access to students

Richard Dorney- Savage, Area Manager (West) at The Careers and Enterprise Company


Capturing student engagement in online outreach

Annette Hayton, NERUPI convenor and senior research fellow at the University of Bath

14:20 Panel discussion

  1. Looking forward: the future of outreach approaches over the next two years
  2. Chair: Professor Gavin Brooks

    Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Buckinghamshire New University

Mary Curnock Cook, Former Chief Executive of UCAS, Chair of Trustees of the Access Project and a Trustee at multi-academy Trust, United Learning, and Founders4Schools.

Anne-Marie Canning, CEO of the Brilliant Club

Dr Gurnam Singh, Associate Professor of Educational Attainment at Coventry University

15:20     Closing remarks

Professor Gavin Brooks

Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Buckinghamshire New University

15:30     Conference ends

Additional Material

We had a range of submissions to present papers at the conference but unfortunately we weren’t able to include everyone. Below are some additional materials from providers who didn’t present on the day but have still produced short clips about their work:


Clare Addy, Go Higher West Yorkshire

Young Carers Go Higher


Moj Taylor and Aron Tennant, Push

Push Talks

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