Office for Students Uni Connect Press Launch


Under-represented young people consider all future options thanks to impartial partnership work.

Across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, and Swindon a local partnership of four universities and ten Further Education providers have been working together to change the outcomes of local learners both in school and beyond. Together, Buckinghamshire New University; the University of Oxford; Oxford Brookes University; and the University of Reading form the core partners of ‘Study Higher’, a government-funded network of higher education institutions (HEIs) providing innovative and sustained support for schools. This local partnership has built strong relationships with local schools over a number of years and is supporting young people to assess all the options open to them beyond school.

Deliah, a teacher at Oxford Spires Academy, said: I work with many of the institutions and they all support my school in different ways – it works really well’.

Mentoring is one of the most impactful ways HEIs can support young people to fulfil their potential and is just one of many ways that Study Higher is delivering change. Harrison, a Year 13 pupil studying at UTC Swindon was mentored by Jess Hill, a member of staff from the Study Higher team. Harrison said: “Before working with Jess and Study Higher, I didn’t know what to do for my personal statement and how to apply to university but now I do!”. During a series of one-to-one sessions, he was supported to explore how HEIs differ, investigating the various study opportunities they offer by evaluating the various different courses, student finance support and graduate opportunities available. Harrison stated that he is now in a better position to make informed choices that align with his personal interests and career aspirations.

In addition to the mentoring undertaken with another member of Study Higher’s team, Shamsa Khan, at Sir Herbert Leon Academy in Milton Keynes, Anisa has also accessed a range of other outreach activities including: careers conventions; well-being days; and information, advice and guidance workshops facilitated by Study Higher and delivered by our partner HEIs – Buckinghamshire New University, University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes University, University of Reading, and other FE Colleges. Anisa, said: “I knew I wanted to go to university but I was worried that I didn’t know the key terms or how to research universities, let alone apply…. Because of these sessions, I was able to communicate my desire to study my subjects in my personal statement’. (Full case studies can be found on our website.)

Anisa and Harrison are only two of 17,430 students who have worked with Study Higher since April 2017.  Having provided 686 activities, the partnership has offered a high percentage of these only to under-represented groups of learners (88%), where the impact of their work can make the biggest difference. As part of the Office for Students’ Uni Connect Programme, Study Higher is just one of 29 partnerships across England where groups of HEIs are coming together to investigate why some young people in parts of the UK are not progressing into higher education despite high attainment at GCSE.

Dan Pugh-Bevan, Head of Study Higher said: “Investment from the Government in this project is enabling us to provide the personalised support that we know works well for schools; I am excited that more schools are going to be able to take advantage of the opportunities that our partnership can provide. The new phase will enable our partnership to learn more about how we can better support under-represented young people living in the local area, and to enable greater access to the support that is already in place.” 

Following an initial trial phase, the partnership is expanding its network of support to more under-represented learners than ever before. Over the academic year, all local state schools in the network will be invited to access the new Outreach Hub which, since November 2019, has already supported 17 Secondary School Careers Leads to access the most up-to-date information, while also facilitating in-school workshops and other existing external opportunities in the partner institutions.

Professor Gavin Brooks, Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Buckinghamshire New University and Chair of the Study Higher Programme Board, said: “I am delighted that the four partner universities and ten further education providers that comprise Study Higher have engaged so collaboratively and productively to deliver against the ambitions of the Uni-Connect Programme. By working in collaboration, the partners have developed a range of new activities that help disadvantaged students in the region to aspire to progress to, and enrol in university when they might not otherwise have done so.”

Study Higher has also worked closely with the Careers Enterprise Company to enable collaboration. Kerry Senatore, Regional Lead Thames Valley said ‘Providing joined up support to schools in partnership with Study Higher has enabled us to help schools develop their careers strategies and to focus resources where they are most needed. Working in collaboration is providing busy Careers Leaders with a cohesive package of information and guidance enabling them to make the most of the provision available to them’.

Study Higher will continue supporting target learners through collaborative, engaging and innovative outreach, such as it has by providing a mobile simulation unit which enables students to experience simulations of various exciting career options via the Simulate Your Future programme. This and many other exciting and impactful interactions are helping under-represented learners to reach their full potential through sustained and tailored interactions with their local higher education providers.