This blog is part of the series featuring ideas contained in the new HEPI-Brightside report, Reaching the parts of society universities have missed: A manifesto for the new Director for Fair Access and Participation. It kickstarts the perspectives from students and showcases the idea from Summer Dolan, student at Northumbria University.
For more low-income students to enter higher education, they have to want to go to university in the first place. In my own experience, by the time university is being seriously discussed in the state school system you are well into secondary education, and often surrounded by a culture that sees academic effort as ‘uncool’. Low-income students, from a young age, need examples of people from similar backgrounds who have succeeded at university. Mentoring programmes like Brightside’s are vital and this mentoring could also include parents. The Office for Students should fund pilots for work which connect parents of first-generation students with parents of potential first-generation students, which would provide them with knowledge and support surrounding the process.
I would also suggest, as someone who spent hours trawling through university finance pages on the internet as well as private scholarship pages, that a scholarship search should be integrated into the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). UCAS already asks for the occupational background of the main earner in a student’s household, and this – combined with other factors they collect such as age, gender, race, field of study and location – could be used to direct students to private scholarships and grants they might be eligible for. This could be combined with data from universities to suggest to applicants which universities have grants and scholarships they could apply for.