Buckinghamshire uni boss backs call to make higher education accessible for all
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A university vice-chancellor in Buckinghamshire has backed calls by the Sutton Trust for further government funding to address the university access gap across England.
The Sutton Trust is a charity that fights for social mobility to give young people from all backgrounds the chance to succeed in life.
Recently published figures show that disadvantaged pupils in Bucks are nearly 30 per cent less likely to go on to higher education than their more affluent peers.
Nick Braisby, vice-chancellor of Buckinghamshire New University, which has campuses in Aylesbury, High Wycombe and Uxbridge, said: “We believe that education should be for everyone, regardless of background.
"Throughout our proud 130-year history, transforming lives through the power of education has always been at the heart of everything we do.
"We continue to work hard to tackle the lower education progression rate for disadvantaged pupils compared with their more affluent peers, in Buckinghamshire and beyond.
"I am pleased to see the Sutton Trust highlighting this issue and making it a matter of public interest.
"At BNU, we are committed to playing our part in the government’s response to these worrying statistics, and it is vitally important to us to help local students in their career choices and illustrate the pathways available to them."
Despite a widespread view that Bucks is a wealthy county, Prof Braisby said: "In reality, there are hundreds of school-age pupils in the county who are disadvantaged both economically and socially. For many, higher education can feel entirely out of reach.
"I would urge all universities to invest time and money into making higher education an attractive and viable prospect for everyone."
"And that’s why, despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, last year we continued our work with local schools and colleges to widen participation in higher education among under-represented groups."
The university's outreach programme delivered virtual, in-person and blended activities throughout the year, including taster and careers days along with careers advice and guidance sessions across groups from Years 8 to 13.
It also ran 15 ‘Futures Days’ campus visits last year, aimed at Year 9 students, offering a first-hand experience of university life to encourage pupils to consider higher education, irrespective of their background.
Of the more than 3,000-plus pupils the outreach programme engaged with the university says 48 per cent would be first-generation university students, 60 per cent lived in areas with low participation to university and 35 per cent lived in high-deprivation areas.
Prof Braisby added: "We provide an education that works for all, regardless of background or circumstance, and provides skills for life to meet the global challenges of the 21st century.
"All our graduates make a difference in the real world through their significant contribution to sectors and industries including healthcare, social work, music and film, sport, design, business and law and aviation.
"I am proud of our diverse BNU community, where everyone is welcome to be themselves.
"We’re opening our doors on November 13 for our next Open Day and encourage local people to come and see for themselves why our University is such a special and supportive place to study.”