David Eastwood on widening university access

David Eastwood on widening university access: If the students will not come to us, we must find ways of going to them, says David Eastwood. (Via Education Guardian, Tuesday October 23, 2007).

The Four Cities report provides useful background to my work on the idibl project at the University of Bolton.

The research aimed to “give voice to those who are left behind.” and the Guardian article identifies the key message for higher education institutions as:

“they have to get under the skin of communities like those in the Four Cities report if they are to fulfill their potential to transform life chances there. Universities and colleges have a vital role to play in changing the cultures and perceptions that reproduce cycles of disillusionment and disengagement, working with career services, local authorities and voluntary organisations.”

The report claims that young people in communities like the ones researched express a belief that they feel “written off by potential employers and even some education professionals because of where they live” and the report goes on to draw the conclusion that because of this “They give up on education at an early age, believing they will never succeed and finding no relevance in what they are taught.”

My belief about the best way to help individuals achieve is to motivate them in the following ways at whatever stage in life you can:
1. Positive role models – without those it is difficult to imagine what or who they might become
2. Community – the support network of family, friends, colleagues…
3. Opportunity – however well motivated an individual is, they still need a context in which they can succeed

As the report points out, for some this may be a vocational route where purpose and study are closely linked. The courses we develop for the idibl project will provide the opportunity for authentic learning. However, if they are to attract the disaffected group identified by this report, it might be that we will need to offer a route in at a younger age?

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