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Realising opportunities

Realising Opportunities event

York joins 11 other leading universities to promote fair access to HE

The University of York is a partner in Realising Opportunities, an unprecedented collaboration of 12 leading universities, which was named Widening Participation Initiative of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards 2011.

The partnership promotes fair access to higher education and encourages social mobility, for able students from under-represented groups. 

Students speaking to a Realising Opportunities representative

Though considerable progress has been made to widen participation in the higher education sector, the review by Sir Martin Harris in 2010 demonstrated that the number of disadvantaged young people accessing the most selective institutions remains low.  

For the first time, 12 leading research-intensive universities have come together to develop a single programme which aims to redress this imbalance by building on their collective expertise in widening access to higher education.

The programme has so far supported 500 year 12 and 13 students from educationally and socially disadvantaged backgrounds. When students complete the programme, their achievements are recognised when applying to any of the 12 universities in the partnership. This recognition and support sets Realising Opportunities apart from any other widening participation initiative. 

The Realising Opportunities programme involves an extensive menu of events and activities across the Partnership including:

University Events: The programme is unique in that students are able to access information and support from all the Partners through a menu of events and activities, such as on-campus masterclasses and summer schools providing greater access to a range of universities across the country.

National Conference: Staff from all 12 universities launch the programme at the Conference and deliver a range of targeted workshops. Students also meet their dedicated ementor who guides them through the comprehensive online support during years 12 and 13.

Ementoring: Realising Opportunities ementors are current undergraduate students who offer their allocated students individual tailored support through a programme of topics and activities to enhance their work in school/college and help them through the UCAS process. Ementors are able to give first-hand accounts of university life, especially useful when covering student finance and university preparation.

Academic Assignment: Students taking the Realising Opportunities Academic Assignment are allocated an academic tutor from one of the Partner universities who supports them through their own piece of research. This provides a real experience of higher education, an opportunity to develop academic related skills and a greater awareness of what a research intensive university can offer.

Online Study Skills Module: This module enables students to acquire a range of skills aimed at supporting their study and transition from school to university.

The Realising Opportunities pilot, which began in September 2009, funded through Higher Education Funding Council for England has enabled the Partnership to explore best practice models for delivering a single national compact scheme. This collaboration has enhanced fair access and social mobility, underlined by the commitment of the partners to continue the programme beyond the pilot phase. 

University of York Widening Participation Manager, Liz McNeil, said: "We are very pleased to be involved in this ground-breaking programme. Working with young people over an extended period of time, encouraging them to reach their potential and enabling them to make informed decisions about their futures is proving to be very powerful. We are delighted to welcome our first Realising Opportunities student as an undergraduate and look forward to welcoming many more of them as the programme develops."

The Realising Opportunities programme is led by Newcastle University.

Further information