11 December 2003
Access for all at the University of Sussex
Students from all backgrounds are encouraged to join the University of Sussex through range of activities and events designed to widen participation in higher education.
Figures released by Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) reveal the University of Sussex is doing well in attracting students from state schools and colleges.
Professor Alasdair Smith, Vice-Chancellor said: "Sussex is a very successful and popular university attracting high-quality applicants, and we have a good social mix of students. Already, 85 per cent of our students come from state schools, which is well above our benchmark of 77 per cent."
However, the HEFCE report also shows many leading institutions, including Sussex, are not reaching the benchmark for admitting students from the three lowest socio-economic groups. The data used relate to students taken in during the 2001/2002 entry.
Prof Smith said: "We are working hard to encourage students from all backgrounds to come here, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The figures published today are two years old. Last year, we estimate we improved our intake significantly to 18 per cent, just short of our benchmark of 20 per cent."
The university is now involved in many schemes aimed at pupils from the lower socio-economic groups:
- The Sussex AimHigher Partnership works with schools in the local Education Action Zone. As part of the partnership, University of Sussex students act as mentors for pupils in many schools across the county.
- The Sussex Education Access Scheme (SEAS) guarantees offers to students if they choose to apply to Sussex, and provides special support from staff here.
- The Sussex Access Bursaries provide up to £3,000 per year to students from financially or socially disadvantaged backgrounds.
- The university runs residential summer schools, taster events and Masterclasses. In 2003, more than 1,000 students from disadvantaged backgrounds participated in events to see what studying at university is really like.
Prof Smith said: "A lot of this is to do with raising young people's aspirations, and helping them to see University as something that they can aim for. This is a long-term programme and we expect it to have a positive effect in future years."
Prof Smith is keen to stress widening participation relates to students of all ages and circumstances. He added: "We also have a well deserved reputation for attracting and retaining a high number of mature students (currently 22 per cent of our students) and disabled students (seven per cent). Sussex is rightly proud of the opportunities we offer to everyone."
Notes for editors
- The HEFCE website lists the full report at http://www.hefce.ac.uk/learning/perfind/2003/
- HEFCE publishes two benchmarks per university for widening participation. The more relevant figure is the adjusted benchmark, which reflects the location of the university as well as its subject mix and offer levels. For Sussex this adjusted benchmark is 20 per cent.
- Press Office contacts: Alix Macfarlane or Jacqui Bealing Tel 01273 678888 or Fax 01273 877456 A.Macfarlane@sussex.ac.uk or J.A.Bealing@sussex.ac.uk
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