01 December 2011

Realising Opportunities gains national recognition

Student ambassadors who are working on the Realising Opportunities scheme

Work by the University of Essex to raise the aspirations of young people across the country in partnership with 11 other leading universities has gained national recognition.

The Realising Opportunities programme, which targets young people throughout England including Essex and East London, won the Widening Participation Initiative of the Year award at the Times Higher Education Awards 2011. Judges praised the scheme for “showing evidence of real impact and great potential”.

The collaboration promotes fair access and social mobility for students from groups which are under-represented within higher education. Essex has been working closely with the other universities involved in Realising Opportunities to deliver a national support network for students.

At a regional level over the past two years students in Barking, Dagenham and Thurrock have been among those benefitting from the initiative which is now about to be extended to Basildon, Clacton and Harwich.

The project provides extra skills development opportunities and guidance to support students during their post-16 studies and allows them to demonstrate their potential to study at a research intensive university.

The programme includes:

  • The Extended Project Qualification to help develop study skills and demonstrate potential;
  • The skills4uni online study skills module to increase confidence in research based projects and gain a better understanding of what to expect at university level study;
  • Ementoring with a current undergraduate student to offer online support through a secure portal;
  • A National Student Conference gives participants the chance to meet with other students and their Ementors and take part in workshops;
  • Further support and guidance about entering the professions;
  • Activities at partnership universities including summer schools, master classes, and subject taster days

Judges particularly praised the Ementoring aspect of the programme which matches students to undergraduates taking courses they are interested in. At Essex a team of Student Ambassadors work as Ementors to support the national Ementoring network.

John Orchard, from the University of Essex Outreach team, said: “We are really pleased that Realising Opportunities has received this recognition for the important work we do in raising the aspirations of young people, unlocking potential and widening participation in higher education.

”In the coming year we will be working with more schools and young people than ever before and this award shows the impact we are having by working together with our partners.

“It is also pleasing to hear the judges highlight the work of our students taking part in the Ementoring programme as this is a really important aspect of the programme.”

The other top universities taking part in Realising Opportunities are Birmingham, Bristol, Exeter, King’s College London, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Warwick and York.

All of the participating universities are members of the prestigious Russell Group and 1994 Group, which bring together research intensive universities. Studying at research intensive universities allows students to benefit from research-led teaching, opportunities to develop transferable skills and access cutting edge facilities.

Our picture shows student ambassadors who are supporting the Realising Opportunities initiative at Essex.

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