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Professor Les Ebdon and City's Widening Participation Outreach team
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Widening participation and retention initiatives praised by Office of Fair Access

Professor Les Ebdon CBE, endorses City’s work to improve access to higher education

by Nicola Ranson

Professor Les Ebdon CBE, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, has visited City to find out more about the University’s programme of activities to widen participation and enhance development opportunities for students.

The Office of Fair Access (OFFA) is an independent body that aims to promote fair access to higher education across the UK, increasing the proportion of learners from under-represented and disadvantaged groups. This includes students enrolling at university and successfully completing their studies.

City’s Widening Participation Outreach team organise a range of events and initiatives for young people to help them make well informed decisions about their future. Working with schools and colleges in the local area, the team deliver career and higher education advice sessions, organise University visit days and taster weeks and provide tutoring to secondary and primary school pupils.

Student success and retention are also key priorities for City and the Student Development team run a number of programmes to help students settle in when they first join and to develop the skills they need to continue their studies. For example, the University’s CityBuddies scheme matches up second and third year students with new undergraduates whj they arrive at the beginning of term. City runs a professional mentoring scheme that matches students with individuals from the career area they are interested in and also offers a student counselling service.

During his visit, Professor Ebdon met with Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Curran and toured the University with current City students. He also heard from the Widening Participation and Student Development teams about their work. Professor Ebdon said he was “very pleased” to see the work that City is doing to support students from disadvantaged and underpriveleged backgrounds.


From work with primary schools onwards, it’s clear that City understands the importance of sustaining engagement all the way through the student lifecycle to raise aspirations and improve access. However, access is only meaningful if entrants go on to complete their courses and follow their career goals after graduating, so it’s great to see the University making efforts to improve student retention and support as well, for example by matching students up with mentors working in the professions.”

City has made significant investment to improve the facilities and student experience at the University over the past few years including opening a brand new sports centre, student bar and refurbishing lecture theatres and study spaces.

Professor Ebdon commented: “I enjoyed seeing the new space for social activities and communal study, which I imagine will become a real hub for students to spend time together and develop a ‘City identity’. Creating a sense of belonging is key to improving retention, but really achieving that community feeling takes a whole-institution approach where different parts of the University work together.”

As part of the Widening Participation Outreach team’s programme of activities, they provide support to children who have been in care, offering visits for pre-entry students. This support continues after the students are at City, aiming to tackle the many challenges faced by young people leaving care.

Professor Ebdon said: “During my visit I also heard first hand from the students how City promotes access for care leavers. These are a really important group of potential students who are often discouraged from going to university and City has shown sensitivity in understanding their extra needs.”

Professor Paul Curran said: "I greatly valued Professor Ebdon’s visit. Colleagues and I discussed the work we are doing to widen access and support our students and we welcomed Professor Ebdon's comments. Three of the topics we covered were student retention, student community and the City of London Academy Islington.”
Definition
The Office of Fair Access

The Office of Fair Access (OFFA) is an independent body that aims to promote fair access to higher education across the UK, increasing the proportion of learners from under-represented and disadvantaged groups.

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