THE University of Glasgow has made a commitment to the city’s most disadvantaged youngsters, by ensuring its Widening Participation programme continues to run despite the lockdown.

Each year, hundreds of pupils from struggling backgrounds are admitted to the university through the summer school schemes – providing them with the opportunities they may not have had with just their SQA grades.

This year is no different, with the institution moving as much of the programmes online as it can – with a commitment that no pupil is left behind during the virus crisis.

Dr Neil Croll, head of Widening Participation (WP) at the university, told us: “We’ve got the research over the years that shows these programmes work and that when people get in, they don’t just get in but they are successful when they come to the university because they’ve done these programmes.

“That’s where, in terms of things at the moment with the lockdown, it was absolutely vital for us thinking that we have to run them.

“If we don’t run them, all these people this year that we have been working with already, they’d be severely disadvantaged and it would affect their chances of getting into not just Glasgow but to whatever university that they choose.”

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Last year, around 450 students took part in the WP Summer School – which is expected to rise to more than 600 this year as studies are put online.

Around 70-80 academic staff are involved in running the schemes.

That means that high school pupils with an interest in sought-after subjects like medicine, veterinary medicine, law and dentistry will have the chance to do so, regardless of their background.

As a result, the university says more than 25% of its total intake comes from the poorest 40% of households.

Dr Croll added: “If some of the students, which will be the case, don’t have access to online, then we can send out SIM cards to their phone, or if they have a laptop we can send them these devices which have pre-paid hours for online access.

“So there are ways around it, but it’s a lot of individual solutions we have to find. But it’s the only way we can do it.

“We know with a little extra help getting these people in the door and preparing them for being a student they can be successful, so there is no way we could have just said we won’t run these this year.”

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Jennifer Barclay, 22, from Larkhall, is now on her last year of studying veterinary medicine after taking part in the Reach Programme while still in school.

She said: “I don’t know if I would have gotten into university without the scheme.

“I know that sounds a bit dramatic but during the course you get so many incredible practical skills, things like help with personal statements is incredibly important.

“I was the first ever person from my school to go on to apply to veterinary.

“It was incredibly useful and gave me the motivation that I could go on and study something like that, it showed me that I was more than capable of doing it.”

Jennifer is among a number of students who, every year, return to help out with the WP programmes and mentor pupils during the summer schools.

This year, she has been preparing videos and answering key questions to make sure prospective students get the best advice.

Another student also grateful for the scheme is 18-year-old secondyear Biomedical Engineering student Maja Mierzwinska.

She attended Smithycroft Secondary in the East End of the city, and she too believes she wouldn’t have made it to university without help from the programme.

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She added: “I think it’s great it’s being continued online, it would be a real shame for pupils who started taking part or are waiting for summer school, it would be disappointing to find out all their anticipation would go to waste.

“It’s going to be different, but the students will take a lot of helpful and meaningful information from these programmes as well. “

The summer school is also acting as a “back-up” option for many, following the cancellation of school exams, with pupils now being given “predictive grades” based on past results and teacher assessment.

Dr Croll explained: “What we plan to do with the summer school is applicants, if they do well in the summer school but don’t do as well in the predictive grades, we can take the performance in the summer school in lieu of the predictive grades.

“What we are effectively doing is putting it back in their own hands where they get work to do, get assessed and give them the second option if the grades they get in August don’t work out.

“We hope this gives them a bit of peace of mind and gives them every chance to get into university.”


‘They will get a chance to fulfil their potential, regardless of background’

By Rachel Sandison, Vice-Principal for External Relations, UofG

THE University of Glasgow is a proudly international institution – but we have never forgotten that our first duty is to our home city.

A key aspect of that duty is ensuring that talented young people in Glasgow have the opportunity of a university education, regardless of their background.

In recent years, we’ve made extraordinary progress in Widening Participation, with more than 25 per cent of our Scottish undergraduates coming from SIMD40 backgrounds.

Working with all 13 local authorities and more than 160 schools across the west of Scotland we undertake a range of programmes for potential students, including our summer school – completion of which can lead to an adjusted offer to study at the university for those who are from a priority postcode area, are care experienced, living without family support, have asylum seeker status or are a refugee.

And while the Covid-19 crisis makes matters more challenging, we will not let up – instead, we are working even harder.

This year’s summer school programme will run fully online and looks set to be our biggest ever, with more than 600 pupils participating – and we are providing additional support to applicants who have issues with online access.

We are determined that nobody will be left behind.

These efforts are more important than ever – our young people look likely to be entering into the most precarious labour market in many generations.

It is vital that they are equipped with the skills they need to succeed.

Rebuilding our economy in the aftermath of the crisis will not be easy – and we’ll only do so if we can harness the skills and talents of everyone across our communities.

People across Glasgow can rest assured that the university will play our part and ensure our young people get the chance to fulfil their potential, regardless of their background.