UPP Foundation funds five projects to tackle ‘biggest issues in the HE sector’

The charitable foundation has awarded £100,000 to five projects, including one to support homeless people access university

The UPP Foundation has awarded grants to five ‘civic university’ projects in the higher education sector, including one which hopes to help homeless people gain access to a university education.

The charitable foundation was founded to help universities maintain a public and civic mission during an era of increased competition and marketisation. The five funded projects, which will be delivered by universities and charities in the sector, look to address hidden inequities and help universities nationwide do more for their towns and cities.

The winning projects were chosen from over 50 applications – the highest number the charity has received since it was founded in 2016.

The UPP Foundation wants the winning bids to share, when possible, the outcomes of the projects so that other universities can learn from their successes.

They will help the most disadvantaged individuals gain access to university, better understand ways to improve graduate outcomes for UK and international students and measure the overall impact universities have on their local communities
– Richard Brabner, UPP Foundation director

The bids which received funding:

  • University of Chichester for its project to help homeless students gain access to university
  • Get Further for its scheme to provide tuition for young people to retake English and maths GCSEs
  • The Bridge Group for its work encouraging and supporting graduates to remain and contribute to their local economy
  • University of Manchester to help host work placements for international postgraduate students with SMEs
  • Goldsmiths, University of London for a project to engage the local public in developing a civic university agreement

Richard Brabner, director of the UPP Foundation, said: “In awarding the grant funding, we are confident that the proposed pilot projects will incubate new ideas to help address some of the biggest issues in the HE sector. They will help the most disadvantaged individuals gain access to university, better understand ways to improve graduate outcomes for UK and international students and measure the overall impact universities have on their local communities.”

Homeless students

Last year, the University of Chichester developed a pilot course for homeless people who wanted to enter higher education. The scheme, called From Adversity to University, helped five homeless students study at the university. The UPP Foundation has given the scheme £18,000 to expand the pilot to help more students and research its impacts and benefits.

The programme aims to help vulnerable young people, including ex-offenders, ex-service personnel, care leavers and victims of domestic abuse and violence earn basic qualifications to start a full degree.

Some of the most intelligent people in the UK are living in poverty, both economically and aspirationally
– Becky Edwards, University of Chichester

“Being intelligent and being educated are not synonymous,” said social work lecturer Becky Edwards, who is responsible for the project. “Some of the most intelligent people in the UK are living in poverty, both economically and aspirationally.”

Civic University Agreements

UPP Foundation funds five projects to tackle 'biggest issues in the HE sector' Frances Corner
Goldsmiths warden Prof Frances Corner said her university’s scheme would seek to understand what local residents want the university to do in the community. (credit: Ben Queenborough)

Civic University Agreements (CUAs) were first proposed in a UPP Foundation report by former head of the civil service Lord Robert Kerslake. The foundation wants universities to write agreements with their local communities that detail how the institution seeks to strengthen the local society, economy and culture.

The project at Goldsmiths will be an early test case for how institutions can go about writing one of these CUAs. The funding will help Goldsmiths develop a tool which will help senior leaders measure the university’s civic activities against their goals and targets. The tool will then be made freely available to other universities as an ‘open access resource’.

Prof Frances Corner, warden of Goldsmiths, said: “This support from the Foundation will allow the college to conduct vital research into the priorities of our local residents and stakeholders, ensuring Goldsmiths can continue its long-standing commitment to civic engagement in the most impactful way. We look forward to sharing our findings with a range of other institutions.”

Related news: UPP Foundation receives government investment for Civic University Network

Catch-up GCSE tuition

The London-based charity Get Further recruits graduate and post-graduate students to provide training to young people in further education colleges who have not secured a GCSE in English or maths.

The £25,000 pilot scheme will expand this post-16 ‘catch-up’ tuition programme to help an extra 100 students. The foundation and Get Further will also host a seminar with policymakers, researchers and teachers to discuss how the project could become a model of success in other parts of the country.

Sarah Waite, chief executive of Get Further, said: “Now, more than ever, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds need extra support to progress to their next steps in education and work. Missing out on crucial English and maths qualifications leaves them locked out of many university courses, apprenticeships and key professions. Moreover, those young people who plan on retaking these qualifications next year will now likely have had a six-month gap in their education.

“We know that having a tutor to provide tailored support and build confidence can get students back on track – but too often this is out of reach for many young people in further education. At Get Further, we want all students in further education in need of extra help in English or maths to be able to access it – and are delighted to have the backing of the UPP Foundation to expand our catch-up tuition programmes, so that more students can realise their potential in education and work.”

Graduate retention rates

The Bridge Group will use its £23,000 of funding to investigate the experiences of graduates who remain in the region in which they studied. Young people who go to university in deprived parts of the country are more likely to move away to economically vibrant regions after graduation; this pattern disadvantages parts of the country that lack graduates, as well as those university leavers who might not be able to move away because of socio-economic reasons.

The project will work with four higher education providers (HEPs), including the University of Sunderland. Sir David Bell, Sunderland’s vice-chancellor and chief executive, said: “I am delighted to support a project that will cover a neglected part of the social mobility story. Too often, that is about people leaving home for university and never returning. But a graduate who chooses to stay in the place they were born and brought up can improve their life-chances as significantly as someone who doesn’t, at the same as making a vital contribution in their own locality.”

Supporting SMEs with postgraduate talent

The University of Manchester will test a pilot placement programme for 20 postgraduate international students with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Greater Manchester. The students will gain a paid placement, with their work contributing to their final degree classification.

Prof Martin Evans, vice dean and head of the university’s school of environment, education and development, said: “This is a really exciting project which will greatly enhance the experience of international students coming to the University of Manchester and will allow them to share the benefit of their expertise and their international perspective with SMEs across the region.”

The grants were finalised before the government announced the Covid-19 shutdown. The social distancing measures are expected to delay the implementation of the projects.

UPP Foundation also recently announced that Sheffield Hallam University will host the newly created Civic University Network, which aims to disseminate best practice to HEPs in the network and encourage others to expand their civic activities.

Read more: New £10m fund to support student involvement with community and business


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