Research news – Project tackling barriers to Higher Education receives £500,000 funding boost

A pioneering new project, led by the University of Exeter, which seeks to tackle potential barriers faced by students with vocational qualifications when they enter higher education, has received a significant funding boost.

The pivotal project, called “Transforming Transitions” and led by Professor Debra Myhill, has today (March 9) received £500,000 funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

The project will examine and challenge potential barriers experienced by students with BTEC qualifications as they apply for, and then enter, higher education. The crucial project aims not only to address the gap between the number of students taking solely BTEC qualifications and those moving into Higher Education, but also identifying ways in which to smooth and aid their transition once they enter university.

The project will be conducted over the next two years in partnership with the University of Birmingham, Loughborough University and Queen Mary, University of London. It will also involve Exeter College, Leicester College, Hereford Sixth Form College, City and Islington College.

Professor Debra Myhill, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean for the College of Social Sciences and International Studies said: “We are very excited about this award because it will help us to understand better the transition from school or college to university, and enable us to ensure a successful student experience for all our students, regardless of their background.”

The project is one of 17 projects nationwide, involving 64 universities and colleges, to receive funding from HEFCE’s Catalyst Fund, which seeks to address differences in outcomes for various student groups.

The projects will particularly benefit those student groups affected by differential outcomes highlighted in previous HEFCE research, including black and minority ethnic students, students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, disabled students (including those presenting with mental health issues and specific learning difficulties), mature students and part-time students.

Madeleine Atkins, Chief Executive of HEFCE said: ‘The significant response from higher education providers to this funding call demonstrates their commitment to ensuring all students benefit from a vibrant, inclusive, world-class higher education experience.

“Funding this programme will support real progress towards closing the unacceptable differences in outcomes between groups of students. We look forward to working with providers to make sure this targeted, evidence-led investment maximises outcomes for students – contributing to improved productivity and social mobility and, of course, individual opportunities.”

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