Fair access for students scheme wins national award
February 20, 2019 | Bronte Reilly
An admissions scheme that helps widen access to the University has won an award for greatest student impact.
Access to Leeds guarantees special consideration for students whose circumstances may affect their ability to demonstrate talent through exam grades alone.
The scheme is the largest of its kind in the UK and has helped almost 6,000 students since it began in 2003.
It won at last night’s inaugural Student Social Mobility Awards, which are supported by the Social Mobility Commission, after being nominated by final year student Melanie Graves, who came to the University through the scheme.
“Studying Linguistics at Leeds is a dream come true,” said Melanie. “I’ve always loved learning and I’m fascinated by how language works.”
“My mother came to the UK from Spain on her own when she was 21 and learnt to speak English from scratch with no formal teaching. I wanted to understand the biological mechanisms behind language learning.”
Melanie’s personal situation made it challenging for her to attend sixth form college straight after leaving school, but once there she was alerted to Access to Leeds by a mentor.
“It made me feel that someone cared and that someone wanted people like me to progress,” she added.
Louise Banahene, Head of Educational Engagement at the University of Leeds, said:
“We are very proud to win this award and very grateful to Melanie for nominating us.
“Our scheme helps high achieving students to access the University. Research shows that Russell Group universities are sometimes perceived as elite and difficult to access – this scheme is one of the ways in which we try to address that.
“We are also very aware that the journey for these students does not stop once they get to university. We continue to engage with students whilst they are on-course to ease transition, develop their networks and provide opportunities to enhance employability.”
How the scheme works
Access to Leeds takes into account “extra” factors such as household income, the level of awareness of higher education within family and community networks, and any disruption to study applicants may have experienced.
Central to the scheme is the pre-entry module, delivered via distance learning and designed to help students make the transition to university life by building familiarity and a sense of belonging.
On successful completion of the module, applicants receive a slightly lower A-level grade offer for their chosen course, easing the level of risk that prospective students may feel they are taking by choosing a Russell Group institution.
They get early access to university systems and libraries, tuition from subject-specific academic tutors, guidance on skills expected for undergraduate study, pastoral support, and visits to campus for events.
Leeds’ research shows that participation in the pre-entry module contributes to students remaining on their course, and that more than three quarters of former participants graduating in the last four years achieved a first or 2:1.
Student Social Mobility Awards
The awards, announced at the House of Lords by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, showcase the achievements of undergraduates from lower socio-economic backgrounds from across the UK.
They recognise students who have excelled in their studies and beyond, and shown great potential to excel as they launch their careers.
The awards are organised by upReach, a charity that helps young people achieve their career potential by providing an intensive programme of support that addresses socio-economic barriers to employment.