COLUMN: University is an option for everyone

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I have spoken a lot about our mission to raise the aspirations of our students and this month we signed up to a scheme called the Access Project, which aims to get more young people to go to university.

We were approached to take part after a study in the summer discovered that just 4.8 per cent of young people in Shirebrook went on to attend university in 2015, compared to 87.2 per cent of young people in Gerrard’s Cross in Buckinghamshire – the highest in the UK.

There is a link to household incomes, but one of the other reasons that there are low numbers of local young people going to university is because many families have little prior knowledge or experience of higher education themselves.

Because this has not been a traditional route for many families in this area, some of our students don’t see it as a realistic or attainable option.

The Access Project aims to break this cycle, by spreading the word about university so that students will consider it as one of the options open to them.

There will be a range of resources in place to help them, while they will be able to talk to those members of our staff who grew up locally, did go to university and have returned to Shirebrook to teach.

I was the first person in my family to go to university and I think that the more young people who do so, the better, because we all benefit from a well-educated and skilled population.

The current system of fees and loans mean that, unlike for my generation, a degree also comes with a large debt, which many people feel is worth it in return for the higher salaried graduates command.

Whatever, the rights and wrong of that argument, simply by encouraging our students to see that universities are for everyone, not just the good people of Gerrard’s Cross, we are putting the choice in their hands.

For more information about The Access Project, visit www.theaccessproject.org.uk.