OUR PROGRAMME HAS SUCCESSFULLY RAISED ASPIRATIONS AND IMPROVED ACADEMIC ATTAINMENT AND HELPED STUDENTS TO OVERCOME THE BARRIERS TO REACHING HIGHLY-SELECTIVE UNIVERSITIES
Data from our first two cohorts of students shows our programme is increasing successful applications to top universities for those facing barriers to Higher Education.
Independent analysis by UCAS Strobe found a significantly higher number of participants from our first cohort of Universify participants applied to university compared to a database of potential applicants. We also saw a 10 percentage point increase in successful university applications compared to a benchmark based on backgrounds matching those of our participants.
In 2020, more than half of our second cohort of participants entered university. Universify participants were nearly twice as likely to successfully apply to university than their peers, and 2.5 times more likely to receive offers to high-tariff universities, those with the most demanding entry requirements.
In 2019, UCAS found that students from advantaged backgrounds are over five times more likely to enter high-tariff universities than disadvantaged students.
We have identified the three key barriers faced by young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in reaching higher education:
1. limited educational aspiration;
2. low educational attainment;
3. the belief that university is not a place for ‘people like them’.
With the support of an independent evaluator, we measure our impact at overcoming these barriers to ensure our programme is as effective as possible in helping our participants to achieve their potential in education by entering highly-selective universities.
Over five years our programme has continued to raise aspirations to education. We have seen a 22 percentage point increase in participant aspirations after the summer programme across our first four cohorts.
These increased aspirations have been maintained across every cohort following the Spring programme. For Cohort 3, 77% of participants said they were 'fairly likely' or 'very likely' to apply to a highly-selective university after the Spring residential compared to 84% from the summer programme in August.
Our programme equips participants with the grades and aspirations to apply to highly-selective universities. In 2019:
At the beginning and end of the summer programme we ask participants to choose one word they associate with university. We see a change in perceptions before and after the course with ideas of university as 'stressful', 'difficult' and a place for people who are 'rich' and 'posh' being replaced by the thought that university is 'fun, 'exciting', and an 'amazing' 'life-changing' 'adventure'.
These more positive connotations, seeing university as an opportunity, are reflected in 94% of all our participants reporting that they felt comfortable on the course and among the student group. These feelings show how participants no longer feel out of place in a highly-selective university.
In 2020, Covid-19 prevented us from hosting residentials at Oxford and Cambridge. Instead, we moved our programme online, delivering a 3-day revision weekend in the Spring for our fourth cohort, and a 5-day online summer programme for our fifth cohort of students. Despite the challenges of delivering online, our impact data suggests that our online programme continued to help students to overcome the three key barriers to applying to highly selective universities:
Increasing aspirations to university — there was a 16 percentage point increase in the number of participants who were ‘fairly likely’ or ‘very likely’ to apply to a highly-selective university at the end of the online summer programme.
Improving GCSE attainment — 83% of teachers agreed or strongly agreed that engaging in Universify’s programme benefited the student’s GCSE attainment.
Fostering a greater understanding of university — there was a shift in perception over our summer course with over 2.5 times more positive word associations than negative associations linked to university at the end of the course.
We measure our impact annually to evaluate progress towards overcoming the barriers to higher education and achieving our mission. Our impact report highlights what we can do to improve and refine our programme to make it as successful as possible.
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