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Sharing learning from our attracting diversity project

Published: 10/05/2017

The University of Strathclyde showcases the attracting diversity project on open days.

Background

The University of Strathclyde has been involved in the ECU attracting diversity project since its inception in 2014. The project team was drawn from across the institution and involves strategy and policy, widening access, admissions, disability, equality and diversity and the students association. Whilst the short and medium-term objectives and activities have evolved over time, our primary aim has remained the same: to gain a greater understanding of application and other data and what this can tell us about who applies for our programmes, how likely they are to receive an offer, the timeline of that process and whether applications convert to entrant registrations. This evidence can be used to inform future activities.

The open day internship

During the first year of the project, we scrutinised registration data for open days and noted that the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) appeared to be a relevant correlational factor. Those from less deprived quintiles registered in far greater numbers than those from more deprived areas. There is a wealth of research to indicate that open days are one of the most trusted and useful sources of information for prospective applicants when making decisions (full open day report, including references, available upon request).

It is, therefore, concerning that those resident in more deprived areas appear less likely to access this resource, particularly since potential applicants from schools with low rates of progression to higher education and from disadvantaged backgrounds are also likely to have very limited access to other higher education information sources and networks.

To explore this issue further, the widening access team employed a student intern during the summer of 2016. The intern co-ordinated small focus groups of young people from 2 schools located in Glasgow, to uncover current attitudes towards open days and also to identify possible barriers/reasons for non-participation.

Lead pupils from each school canvassed their peers to collect additional data, and to ascertain whether the majority of their peers shared similar or differing views and opinions. The lead pupils from both schools were given with gift vouchers to reward their participation.

Findings

The young people involved in the project all felt very supported by their schools in their aspiration to attend university. There was a distinct lack of awareness about open days, however, and this was the main barrier to attendance. The lack of awareness manifested itself as no knowledge of the dates of university open days, but also limited awareness of the value of such days, with some pupils thinking that they could access all information online, failing to see the importance of physical attendance at university campuses.

Other barriers included unfamiliarity with city centre locations and transport options and reluctance to attend an event unless accompanied by friends or family; understandable but not insurmountable issues if addressed directly by the schools and university.

Next Steps

Based on the findings of the internship project, the widening access team and the recruitment and international Office will work closely with the schools involved to pilot activities aimed at increasing awareness and facilitating attendance at open days in Autumn 2017. Early plans include activities delivered during the S6 transition period before the summer holidays.

For more information about the project, please contact Al Blackshaw, Senior Widening Access Support Officer, al.blackshaw@strath.ac.uk

The views and opinions in this blog post reflect those of the authors and not Equality Challenge Unit.