WIDENING ACCESS TO UNIVERSITY ENGINEERING EDUCATION - AN INITIATIVE TO RAISE SCHOOL ATTAINMENT
Editor: Bohemia, Erik; Kovacevic, Ahmed; Buck, Lyndon; Brisco, Ross; Evans, Dorothy; Grierson, Hilary; Ion, William; Whitfield, Robert Ian
Author: Thomson, Avril Isabel; McLaren, Andrew; Adams, Richard
Institution: University of Strathclyde, United Kingdom
Section: Ethics and Social Issues 2
DOI number: https://doi.org/10.35199/epde2019.103
Countries around the world have witnessed educational expansion at all levels. UK participation rates in Higher Education in the UK continue to increase with The Higher Education Initial Participation Rate (HEIPR) an estimate of the likelihood of a young person participating in Higher Education by the age of 30 reaching 49.8 % in 2016/17. Despite almost half of young people in the UK today expected to access Higher Education barriers identified 70 years ago including gender, financial resource, limited curriculum, race and ethnic background still present a significant challenge. This paper focuses on socio-economic factors, their negative impact on university entry, and presents initial findings from an initiative aimed at overcoming these issues.
Scottish Government policy states that by 2030, twenty percent of students entering university should come from Scotland’s 20 percent most deprived areas. Engineering education faces a significant challenge in meeting these targets with entry typically requiring top grades in mathematics and physics. Attainment and the number of pupils studying subjects is well below average in low progression schools (schools with below a given percentage of pupils progressing to further and higher education). As a result those in the most deprived 20% of Scotland areas Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD 20) are currently under-represented in Engineering Higher Education.
A number of existing approaches to addressing the problem have been implemented with some success. These include outreach projects with low progression schools to build relationships through workshops and mentoring, encouraging awareness, confidence and personal development. Other solutions include programmes that offer direct entry through formal partnerships with further education colleges. Additionally, many Universities make ‘contextual offers’ dependant on applicant postcode lower entry requirements for those living in the most deprived areas. Whilst these approaches are useful in raising applications and university entry from SIMD 20 areas there are some challenges. Certain students who enter university through these programmes can struggle with self confidence in comparison to high UCAS point scoring class mates entering university by ‘traditional’ pathways. Others can find it difficult to cope with classes involving mathematics, physics and their application such as mechanics, thermodynamics and electrical concepts etc.
This paper will describe a pilot initiative in which engineering students from diverse disciplines are supporting pupils in low progression schools to raise their attainment before entering university. This pilot initiative partners four low progression schools located in inner city Glasgow with the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Strathclyde. Second to fifth year engineering students have been ‘paired’ with school pupils sitting SQA examinations in late Spring 2019. They meet once a week during school term time to provide mentoring and one-to-one tuition in maths and physics. Raising attainment to enable university entry and providing a firm foundation for university engineering study. Early findings from the pilot will be reported including lessons learnt which will be useful for other Higher Education establishments wishing to implement similar schemes.