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 showcases the idea from Diana Beech, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI).
As the first in my family to embark on higher education, after growing up in a county without a university, I credit my teachers for giving me the direction and confidence to choose a university that was right for me. Attainment levels at my Sixth Form were above average, but the lack of universities in the vicinity meant pupils left without a clear idea of what going to university entailed. Local industry also did not fully understand how to harness the potential of returning graduates, meaning going to university represented a one-way ticket out of the region.
It should be a priority of the new Director of Fair Access and Participation to eradicate higher education ‘cold spots’ in England by urging universities to develop rural outreach programmes to ensure no community gets left behind. These should include: open days for sixth-formers from rural communities with transport provided by universities (or at least costs covered); arrangements for current students and recent graduates to meet with prospective applicants in schools in remote areas; and entrepreneurship programmes, with final-year students and local employers to encourage graduate openings and attract graduates from both inside and outside the local area to work there.