Reports from Ofsted and the Social Mobility Commission show high levels of educational disadvantage and low rates of higher education (HE) progression in rural and coastal communities. This is partly due to young people in these communities not receiving as much university outreach work, and encountering a narrower range of careers than those in urban areas, resulting in limited aspirations and knowledge of higher education and professional careers.
ARCC (Access for Rural and Coastal Communities) used the internet to connect young people in schools in Kent, Sussex and the Isle of Wight with online mentors who acted as role models and provided personalised advice and support about university and career pathways.
Birmingham City University is using its Ask BCU online mentoring scheme developed with Brightside to help students at two stages:
Stage 1 supports students who have been offered a place at BCU. These students are matched with an undergraduate mentor who can give them advice and support to prepare them for the transition to higher education.
Stage 2 supports BCU students in their penultimate and final years as they prepare for employment. Business mentors, including BCU alumni, support their journey from university into employment with advice and guidance.
The time between getting an offer and actually starting university can be nerve-wracking for many students, who need someone to turn to with their questions and concerns. Edge Hill University uses Brightside’s online platform to mentor students before they arrive at university. Offer holders can ask undergraduate mentors questions around student life and the transition to university. It aims to increase applicants’ confidence around progression to HE, ultimately improving conversion and retention rates. The project increases communication between application and entry, in order to develop students’ familiarity with and sense of belonging at the institution.
A sense of belonging is essential to help students settle in and succeed at university, particularly if they are mature students or the first in their family to go onto higher education. Bridging Courses are designed to develop a feeling of community in these students before they arrive at SOAS, helping them prepare for student life and degree-level study. Online mentoring extends the reach and impact of Bridging Courses by providing students with an online forum during the summer, where they can ask questions about university life and discuss any concerns with student ambassadors. They are also given the opportunity to be matched with their own individual mentor throughout the first term, who can offer personal advice around the transition to university.
K+ is King’s College London’s widening participation project targeting high-achieving Year 12 pupils in the Greater London area whose parents did not attend university. K+ currently has over 700 students taking part in an 18 month programme of activities including subject taster sessions, study skills workshops and coaching on personal statements and student finance, all supported by their own online undergraduate mentor. Brightside’s web platform also allows students to form their own social network through which they can support each other as they progress into higher education.
UCL Academy is a school in North London sponsored by UCL. Its Brightside mentoring programme is designed to support mentees at key transition points in their education, to build confidence, raise aspirations and aid informed decision making about their next steps, by matching UCL Academy pupils with students studying at UCL.
The programme is delivered at two levels, designed for different age groups:
Brightside provides the online mentoring platform for Realising Opportunities; an award-winning collaboration of 15 leading research-intensive universities, promoting fair access and social mobility for students from under-represented groups. Over 300 eligible students per year are allocated an undergraduate mentor, leading them through a comprehensive programme of information and guidance designed to raise their aspirations. Online mentoring underpins all programme activities, and mentors follow a schedule designed to support students’ work, offering key information at crucial points in the year such as when preparing for UCAS applications.
Brightside’s online mentoring means young people who attend one of University of Surrey’s widening participation summer schools can continue getting support once the summer ends. Matched with a current undergraduate at Surrey, mentees can get advice about the application process and ask questions to help prepare themselves for university life. University of Surrey also uses Brightside’s online mentoring to run a study skills programme, helping students to develop the specific academic skills they need to succeed in higher education.
An exciting challenge for budding Richard Bransons to develop their enterprise skills, The Big Deal mentoring programme, run with University of Warwick and University of York, provides disadvantaged young people with an opportunity to develop business ideas, and to work with professionals on preparing and presenting a business plan. Mentors guide teams of young people through a series of engaging online modules on the Big Deal Blogs mentoring website over the course of ten weeks, supporting them to write innovative and robust business plans. The competition culminates with a high profile event, bringing together teachers, mentors and pupils.
Smarter Futures helps students who participated in Allen & Overy’s Smart Start Experience, which aims to tackle the issues of social mobility and access to the professions by giving students an insight into business.
Smarter Futures provides ongoing one-to-one support by giving students in Year 13 access to a business mentor, with whom they can discuss topics of key importance as they make tough decisions about their future.
Alongside online mentoring, Allen & Overy also organises after school masterclasses where participants can meet their mentors face-to-face.
Since 2010 Smarter Futures has matched over 390 students with business mentors at A&O and its clients. All students participating in Smarter Futures can apply for a Smart Start Star Award (a bursary of £10,500 paid over a three-year degree). Since 2011, A&O has awarded eleven bursaries.