Professor Les Ebdon praises BU’s work in widening access


Professor Les Ebdon, Director of the Office For Fair Access (OFFA), has praised the work Bournemouth University is doing to widen access and participation in higher education.

OFFA is an independent body which helps safeguard and promote fair access to higher education, and Professor Ebdon visited BU to talk to staff, students and the public about the importance of making higher education accessible to all.

Professor Ebdon said: “I believe that higher education is a life-transforming experience which opens up a wealth of opportunities.

“It is about transforming lives and giving people that opportunity that we had to make a difference in our lives and to make a difference to other people’s lives.

“I am delighted to be here at BU where you have done so much.”

A number of schemes are currently running at BU to work with people from under-represented groups in higher education – such as care leavers, people with disabilities or additional learning needs, and those from lower income backgrounds.

These include the AimHigher outreach project, where teams go into schools and colleges to give young people a feel of what university is like through workshops and taster days.

BU also runs schemes to support students once they get to university, such as Peer Assisted Learning and the Grow @BU project, which provides mentoring and support to students from under-represented backgrounds.

Professor Ebdon said he had enjoyed finding out more about the work BU was doing around fair access.

“I think BU has an excellent record in widening participation and has gone out to a lot of people in this area and I wanted to see what work was being done,” he said.

“It is clearly a challenge that is taken very seriously here at BU, and particularly in terms of contributing to national research on these issues.”

He added that he was impressed with the Grow @BU project, and the work being done with primary schools in the area to help children and their parents see university as an option from an early age.

“I was particularly impressed to see the work the university is doing with primary schools and hear how effective it is in really raising the aspirations and motivation, and how that is linking in with parents and the staff. That is very powerful.”

He added: “I think the Grow @BU project is particularly good.

“It is not just enough to ensure that students from widening participation backgrounds come to university, but also making sure that they are successful, and don’t withdraw from programmes as a result of barriers.”

Professor Ebdon spoke to staff and students from the university during the afternoon and at a public event at Talbot Campus in the evening.

The events also heard from past and present BU students from under-represented groups, and Jackie Green, headteacher at Malmesbury Park Primary School in Bournemouth, who has been working closely with BU outreach teams.

Professor John Vinney, Vice-Chancellor of Bournemouth University, said: “Every student who has the ability and the academic capability to succeed at university should have the chance to do so.

“It is an increasing priority and focus for many universities and something that we certainly take very seriously at Bournemouth University.”

Following the visit, Professor Ebdon raised the work being done at BU in a Parliamentary committee.

While speaking at the Business, Innovation and Skills committee about student admissions and fair access, he mentioned the schemes which support students from under-represented backgrounds.

He said: “Only last week I was at Bournemouth University looking at how one of their programmes is really effective.

“They have already seen a 2 per cent improvement in their retention record. Young graduates are spearheading the programme.

“They know what the experience of going through university life is like and what the challenges are. I could see it was a very effective programme in the making.”