Guest Blog: Student Opportunity funding - why it counts for University of Bedfordshire

29 Nov 2013

Ongoing collaborations between the Professional Academic Development (PAD) office and the Access Partnership Office (APO) have given rise to the development of a systematic approach to student support, which aims to promote the value of skills development to prospective Higher Education (HE) students from Widening Participation (WP) backgrounds. A project has now been established to support student transitioning into HE, focusing on the improvement of academic skills and personalising learning development support for students. An important component of the project involves undergraduate Associates, who are tasked with engaging with prospective students in the capacity of learning development ambassadors.

There is unilateral agreement that the project will be extended to all Associates in 2014 and a range of CPD sessions will be incorporated into their training to help them appreciate the value of learning development, providing them with enhanced skills related to their role.  On conclusion of the project, an evaluation will be undertaken to measure its impact against the University’s Access Agreement targets to gauge the success of its WP outreach programme.

Associates who have participated in the project to date have been positive about their experiences and have reported a number of benefits, not only for prospective HE students, but for themselves in terms of their own academic successes.

The following narrative outlines what the experience was like from a student’s perspective:

"As an individual I have always been enthusiastic, motivated and confident.  Any opportunity, I would aim to be the first to get involved and ensure I make the most of the chance given. Being the eldest in the family I had the pressure to be the first to go university and set a good example to my younger siblings. Being diagnosed with IBD at the age of 17 and not knowing what to do with my further studies I selected a subject which I did not enjoy. This proved to be a great struggle for me and as a result knocked my confidence and self-esteem.

With the help from staff at University of Bedfordshire I managed to change my degree to something more enjoyable and became more involved in extracurricular activities whilst studying. I had started to work as an Associate for Aimhigher in 2009 where I was involved in delivering sessions to various age groups as well as helping with events. Over the years I developed my skills and realised my potential was in doing something that was more active and dynamic than accountancy. I had realised my skills, expertise and interest lay within teaching, a career I now wish to pursue.

Furthermore I also worked as a Peer Adviser in PAD, where I signposted students to various resources available to help them with assignments, providing generic feedback and undertaking general admin work. Working in these roles as an undergraduate student helped me extensively in developing transferable skills, which have helped me immensely as I had a better idea of how to produce good assignments and attain better grades.

Subsequently, I am now utilising these skills in my current workplace, especially when giving feedback to applications received and being able to signpost students to the right resources. In addition my presentation skills throughout working as an Associate have been used during my studies and whilst studying my PGCE. The skills I have gained can now be used in various roles and whilst studying towards becoming a teacher."

Steve Kendall, Director of Widening Participation at University of Bedfordshire