Leading universities join national widening access scheme

Lancaster and Loughborough universities have signed up to Realising Opportunities, a project to benefit students from backgrounds underrepresented in higher education

Lancaster and Loughborough universities have announced that they are to join Realising Opportunities (RO), the Newcastle University-led, access-widening project.

Their involvement means that there are now 16 institutions across England participating in RO, meaning more opportunities for 16/17-year-olds from backgrounds largely underrepresented in higher education.

To date, more than 7,000 young people have taken part, with initial results suggesting RO is doing much to encourage social mobility.

Figures show that RO students are more likely to stay on their course than the national average

At a time when the Department for Education reports that only 17% of pupils at state schools nationally – including those from advantaged backgrounds – progress to the top third of UK institutions, one-in-three RO students have progressed to research-intensive universities.

Participants access a programme of activity designed to support them to make an informed choice about their university application and develop skills vital for study at higher education. Their commitment to the programme, in turn, is rewarded with a lower contextual offer through Ucas.

The scheme’s success extends well beyond the admissions process. Figures show that RO students are more likely to complete their course than the national average, and are also more likely to achieve first and upper second class honours degrees.

A third of RO students have progressed to research-intensive universities, almost double the national average.

Professor Rachel Thomson, pro-vice-chancellor (teaching) at Loughborough, cited its encouragement of inclusivity as a key reason for the university’s affiliation: “We are excited to be joining the RO partnership, and have the opportunity to collaborate with other research-intensive universities to inspire and support students from under-represented groups into higher education through this impactful initiative.

“We are absolutely committed to widening participation and fair access and this programme allows us the opportunity to build on our extensive range of high quality interventions to support young people achieve to their full potential.”


Related feature: Are contextual offers the path to greater social mobility in higher education?