An enrolment initiative created and delivered by the University’s Widening Access team to highlight University as an option to many who have never considered it, is shortlisted in the annual Times Higher Education Awards.
The Widening Access team’s ‘Community to Campus’ initiative is shortlisted in the Widening Participation or Outreach Initiative of the Year category and unlike other universities’ community initiatives, Community to Campus offers academic modules to members of the wider community and engages non-traditional learners in this way.
Cardiff Metropolitan University’s Widening Access team has a strong record of providing outreach adult learning opportunities in the community and encouraging engagement in Higher Education from disadvantaged Community First Areas.
Initially, various taster courses and introductory short courses were offered to learners. Feedback from those who attended the courses reported that learners were inspired to attend university but needed more of a stepping stone or pathway – a taster course was too big of a jump into a degree.
The Widening Access team, which is committed to ensuring people of any age, background or ethnic group are given a fair and equal opportunity to study and support, acknowledged and considered this and worked with academic schools across Cardiff Met to develop various 10-credit, Level-3 accredited modules which are delivered in community settings and are provided free of charge.
Learners who successfully complete the module are then encouraged to progress and apply to the Foundation programme before moving to an Undergraduate programme.
Last year the University’s Widening Access team collaborated with Cardiff Met academics to deliver 50 non-accredited short taster/introductory courses in the community and engaged with 816 learners, which led to the delivery of nine accredited modules with 67 learners passing their assessments.
Twenty nine of these then enrolled on a Foundation programme at Cardiff Met.
Learners are also invited to attend a free three-week Summer School that offers non-accredited taster courses delivered on campus. This allows learners to get a feel for the University and life as a student. An accredited route is available as part of their Summer School experience, through a 10-credit Reflective Skills module which is on offer and delivered by the University-based Centre for Work Based Learning (CWBL).
Sixty-two-year-old second year Psychology Undergraduate Beryl O’Brien began working with the Widening Access team when she took part in several Summer Schools. The mother of three says: “At High School, my attainments left a lot to be desired - quite frankly, I could not wait to leave; which I did one month before my 15th birthday in 1970.
“Higher education was only attainable for those who could afford it during the 70s. In any case, I was not deemed to be ‘clever’ enough as, although I got off to a ‘flying start’ in primary school, I went on to achieve only average grades. I was married and gave birth to my first child by the age of 20, and returned to full time employment soon after.”
Beryl became her widowed mother’s main support and the sole wage earner of the family due to her husband’s mental illness. She says: “I attended several Summer School courses, organised by Widening Access, and which I couldn’t have imagined would have been so enjoyable. Apart from the experience of learning within a university setting, the friends and acquaintances made along the way, made it all the more worthwhile. The tutors were delightfully friendly, and the courses were so interesting that I was quite sad when they ended.
“After Summer School ended I enrolled on a Psychology outreach course – just out of personal interest…however, this course resulted in my enrolment on the Social Science Foundation course at Cardiff Met. To make matters even more amazing, I am the first person in my family to attend university, and also I will be graduating in the same year as my granddaughter!”
Deputy Director of Marketing and Student Recruitment at Cardiff Met, Ben Hughes said: “The University has built a reputation for its contribution to and consideration of our local community. We very much consider members of the community as one of our key groups of stakeholders and endeavour to ensure they benefit from the University and to raise aspirations in any way we can.
“Many of our most successful and inspiring students are the first generations of their families to attend university and realise the huge potential that a University education provides in terms of opportunities, experiences and meeting a variety of people from all walks of life.
"Our Widening Access team’s investment in improving access to university for all has changed lives and for this particular unique model to be acknowledged with this accolade is a great achievement and testament to the dedication of our team.
“It is wonderful to be recognised as among the best in the higher education sector alongside peers from other universities for outstanding work in this category and in the community.”
Winners will be announced at a London ceremony on November 30th.