Widening Access Strategy
The Widening Access Strategy 2022-2026 sets out Aberystwyth University’s priorities for responding to its Strategic Plan 2018 – 2023 commitment to ‘improving access to higher education’ and to ‘encourage participation and collaborative activities through extensive partnerships.’
The strategy aligns with and supports the aims and work of the Fee and Access Plans 2022-2023 and the Reaching Wider Programme Plans 2020/21 to 2022/23.
We are proud of our work in widening access and have invested substantially in encouraging young people from groups under-represented in Higher Education to broaden their aspirations. Targeted admissions support, innovative school/college events, improved access to our estate, investment in learning and teaching equipment to support learning needs and practical support to improve retention, have resulted in increased participation across several groups. We have improved our admissions processes to ensure that recruitment is fair and have worked to remove barriers wherever we see them, be they financial, conceptual, or physical.
We will continue this work through the plans outlined above and through this Widening Access Strategy.
Our Target Audiences
We recognise the following groups as under-represented in higher education and/or requiring additional support:
- Students from areas where families are likely to have no previous background of HE
- Students within the bottom quintile of lower super output areas in the Welsh Index of our Multiple Deprivation
- Students from lower-income families
- Students with disabilities
- Students from a care background or estranged from their family, and Young Adult Carers
- Students from minority ethnic backgrounds
- Mature Students
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ)
- Welsh Medium Students
- Students with children
- Students belonging to a religion or belief
- Asylum Seekers / Prisoners
Our Widening Access objectives are to -
- Work with schools and colleges to raise aspirations of groups under-represented in higher education
- Break down barriers to application for groups under-represented in higher education
- Work closely with regional partner to deliver the aims of the Reaching Wider Partnership
- Work closely with external organisations to continue to raise aspirations of groups under-represented in higher education, through varied events and activities
- Develop provision that supports progression.
- Provide support services that improve retention of students from groups under-represented in higher education and develop new services more appropriate to their needs
1. Working with Schools & Colleges
We work with schools and colleges to raise the aspirations of groups under-represented in higher education. In order to achieve this goal we do the following -
1.1 - Provide talks, activities and workshops targeted at young people identified as at risk of low achievement.
1.2 - Deliver subject specific enrichment activities to students in Wales and the rest of UK.
1.3 - Enhance sustained provision to raise the awareness of HE with primary age groups in targeted schools and communities where disadvantaged is high.
1.4 - Enhancement of our current Widening Participation provision focused on targeted schools/colleges.
2. Breaking Down Barriers
We aim to break down barriers to application for groups that are under-represented within higher education by -
2.1 - Continuously work to improve our contextual admissions policy and procedures. Eligible applicants will receive special consideration, such as a lower offer than our standard published entry criteria.
2.2 - Delivering advice and guidance sessions in schools and colleges in disadvantaged areas, including mock interview sessions and presentations e.g. the UCAS application process, Writing a Personal Statement, Student Finance and Student Life.
2.3 - Providing travel and overnight accommodation support to enable students to attend on-campus activities e.g UG & PG Open Days and Applicant Visiting Days.
2.4 - Continuously improving our bursary and awards programme, monitoring the impact of this on students from under-represented groups. (i.e., Care Leavers, School/College Partnership Scholarships, etc.).
2.5 - Launching a new Access All Aber programme for post-16 targeted Widening Participation learners.
3. Working with Partners
We work closely with regional partners to deliver the aims of the Reaching Wider Partnership by doing the following -
3.1 - Work closely with our Reaching Wider Partners to ensure a coherent approach to Reaching Wider provision across the region.
3.2 - Deliver the activities set out in our Reaching Wider Programme Plans 2021/22 to 2022/23 and beyond.
4. Working with External Organisations
We work closely with external organisations to continue to raise aspirations of groups under-represented in higher education, through varied events and activities.
4.1 The successful implementation of this strategy will require collaboration and partnership working. We will continue to work with a range of strategic partners to support our widening participation activities. Our partners include:
- Reaching Wider Partnership
- Seren Network
- Nuffield Project
- Urdd Gobaith Cymru
- Scarlets (Community Work)
- Welsh Government – Senedd
- National Library of Wales
- Go Wales
- Hay Festival
- CREDU, Connecting Carers
- Ceredigion Careers
- Higher Education Funding Council Wales (HEFCW)
- CLASS Cymru Care Leavers and Student Support Wales)
5. Supporting Progression
We aim to develop provision that supports progression to higher education -
5.1 - Develop and enhance alternative pathways to Aberystwyth University by continuing to develop our Foundation Programme.
5.2 - Work with external partners to create work experience opportunities for students on higher education courses in Wales.
5.3 - Working across the university to offer distance and blending learning to expand opportunity, achievement and attainment.
6. Providing Support Services
We provide the following support services that improve the retention of students from groups under-represented in higher education and develop new services more appropriate to their needs.
6.1 - Continuously monitor and improve our bursary and awards programme, monitoring the impact of this on students from under-represented groups.
6.2 - Review and publicise the hardship funding (access to a discretionary fund that provides support to students experiencing financial difficulties).
6.3 - Continuously work to improve the support offered to students who identify with a disability or with a mental health condition.
6.4 - Expand on the opportunity for peer mentoring engagement supporting a positive transition to Aberystwyth University.
6.5 - Provide wellbeing support for students to ensure they are equipped to reach their academic potential.
Monitoring and Evaluation
Strategy and operation development is constantly informed by data. The data is collected through a wide variety of channels, including:
- Admissions – application rates, offer-making rates, conversion data.
- The Planning Office – sector benchmarking (e.g. via HESA)
- Students Recruitment and Widening Participation – application rates, geographical spread of applicants. All events have event evaluations (e.g. Welsh Baccalaureate days, schools on campus, Access All Aber, Open Days, Applicant Visiting Days)
- Marketing – Digital marketing data reports, analysis of web and social media traffic, market intelligence reports to inform advertising campaigns.
- We are currently looking into joining Higher Education Access Tracker (HEAT) which is a service to obtain better information about the progression routes of schools and college students who participate in our outreach activities.
i. Working with Schools & Colleges
We will monitor and evaluate our work with schools and colleges to raise aspirations of groups under-represented in higher education by -
- Reducing the access gap between entrants from POLAR 4 Quintile 5 and Quintile
- Collecting data on those from underrepresented groups.
- Having a regular auditing cycle against our widening participation activities.
ii. Breaking Down Barriers
We aim to break down barriers to application for groups that are under-represented within higher education. We will monitor and evaluate our progress by doing the following -
- We will encourage widening access to study by having fair and flexible entry routes and offering diverse qualifications. Our students will be empowered to succeed whatever their personal and social backgrounds.
- To strategically review and continuously refresh scholarships/bursary provision to ensure it continues to support students from underrepresented groups who need it the most.
- We will work to increase the number of students who attend Access All Aber each year.
iii. Working with Partners
We work closely with regional partners to deliver the aims of the Reaching Wider Partnership. We will monitor and evaluate our progress by fulfilling our primary goal of -
- Increasing the number of educational opportunities.
iv. Working with External Organisations
We work closely with external organisations to continue to raise aspirations of groups under-represented in higher education, through varied events and activities. To track the efficacy of our provision we will -
- Monitor and assess all our outreach activities with external organisations and track year-on-year improvements in engagement.
v. Supporting Progression
We aim to develop provision that supports progression to higher education. We aim to monitor and evaluate our progress by -
- Developing study skills modules tailored to the confidence building needs of underrepresented groups with the Careers Readiness Support.
- Establishing a clear and transparent route into university for students undertaking a range of qualification in a range of settings.
- Maintaining Careers Service support for students who need help with CV’s, application forms, interviews, work experience and placements.
- Looking to increase the number of Care Leavers, Young Carers and Estranged students continue with a Postgraduate degree.
vi. Providing Support Services
We will be providing support services that improve the retention of students from groups under-represented in higher education and develop new services more appropriate to their needs. We will monitor and evaluate our performance by measuring the following -
- Increase the number of entrants from a care background.
- Personal Tutors to support students academically.
- Signpost Mentoring Scheme provide free and confidential advice on all aspects of university life.
- We will aim to increase the number of students who receive the Disabled Students’ Allowance.
Our core performance indicators will provide a measure of progress for each strategic priority.
|Number in receipt of DSW||Percentage in receipt of DSA (%)||Benchmark (%)||Standard deviation (%)||Target 2023/24|
- Improve the HESA benchmark figure from low participation neighbourhoods. Current benchmark 12.6%.
- Support the application, transition, progression, and retention of specific cohorts of Widening Participation students.
- Maintain the percentage of students in receipt of the Disabled Students' Allowance.