Overcoming barriers to higher education
Liverpool John Moores University was established over 180 years ago to ensure under-represented groups could benefit from higher education and the University remains true to this mission today.
In particular, LJMU has a strong track record of attracting Black and Minority Ethnic students, with approximately 11% of LJMU’s home students classified as having a BME background. This figure far exceeds the UK population average of 7.9% however, as LJMU greatly values the diversity of its student population, the University is continually taking steps to further improve this figure.
LJMU regularly carries out extensive widening access work; the most recent project is a research study of prospective and current students. Over 1,000 pupils from schools and colleges across Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton and the Wirral completed a questionnaire about higher education which had a particular focus on BME groups. Talks were also held with post-16 students, as well as college and school staff. In addition, 540 current LJMU students completed an online questionnaire, giving their perceptions of LJMU and student life, before they entered higher education and outlining their thoughts on the actual experience.
The research across all participants identified three significant perceived barriers to going to university; cost, academic achievement and ethnicity.
A majority of the school and college pupils (80.4% out of 1,125) said they would like to go to university some day but it was clear that for a large number of these young people, the aspiration was a ‘dream’. Over a tenth felt they would not get the results to get into university and nearly half of those questioned said going to university was too expensive. LJMU students also said that, before they went to university, financial problems were a concern and they were worried that they might find the work too difficult.
Some school pupils also seemed to think that Merseyside universities, although accessible geographically, were not always regarded as accessible in social and cultural terms.
In light of these results, LJMU is raising awareness of both its financial support packages and entry requirements and is further developing its outreach programmes.
LJMU is committed to ensuring that all students who are able to go to university can do so, regardless of their financial circumstances. Students from low income households are eligible for either full or partial non-repayable Maintenance Grants, available from the Local Education Authority. To qualify for a full grant, the household income must not be more than £25,000 per year. To qualify for a partial grant, the household income must not be more than £60,000 per year. In addition to the grants, LJMU awards non-repayable bursaries.
A student whose household income is less than £25,000 will be given a LJMU bursary of £1,050 and a student whose household income is between £25,001 and £50,000 is entitled to a bursary of £420. Based on trends in LJMU’s student population, in 2008/09, bursaries will be available to 65% of full-time undergraduate students.
In addition to the bursary scheme, LJMU has a range of non-repayable scholarships which are awarded in recognition of academic excellence and/or endeavour including up to six Vice Chancellor’s Awards of £10,000 per year of the degree course, a maximum of 100 Dream Plan Achieve scholarships of £1,000 for each year of the course and up to 100 Achievers’ scholarships of £1,000 per year of the course.
Also available is the Access to Learning Fund which supports students experiencing financial hardship on an individual, case-by-case basis. Self-funded students on full and part time programmes are also eligible to apply to receive support from the fund. The Access to Learning Fund plays a major part in helping students stay at the University as funds can be directed to help those who need it the most.
By offering such a broad range of financial support, LJMU hopes to encourage more people to go to university. Another way LJMU helps more people benefit from higher education is by offering several different routes onto its courses.
Entry requirements differ per course but accepted qualifications include A-Levels, Applied A-Levels, Access courses, Foundation certificates, Vocational courses such as BTECs and GNVQs, as well as work-based learning, including NVQs and apprenticeships.
Creating a diverse organisation in terms of age, culture, race, religion and social class is very important to LJMU, with the University believing such an environment gives all students a richer social and learning experience and prepares them for their futures. Therefore, not all LJMU students are 18 and straight from school. In fact, almost a quarter of the University’s students are mature. BME students make up a greater proportion of LJMU’s mature students - 24% - compared to 15% of the University’s younger students, demonstrating a belief that it is never too late to benefit from higher education.
To ensure LJMU attracts more students from BME groups, the University takes an active role in regional widening participation projects, particularly through the Greater Merseyside Aimhigher partnership and the Liverpool City of Learning. Initiatives with BME communities include:
- running a family reading group for parents and children at Toxteth Education Trust to build confidence in literacy. 50% of the group are from BME backgrounds.
- working with an English for Speakers of Other Languages group attended by Bangladeshi women, where visits to local venues are provided to encourage them to have confidence in exploring the local area.
- working with a Parenting 2000 group in Southport to raise awareness of the opportunities for family involvement in the local area and to expand communication skills. Some of the parents that attend have moved to the area from other countries.
Other outreach activity that LJMU carries out which is specifically directed at widening participation includes:
- Subject specific taster days and masterclasses
- Student and staff volunteering including student mentoring
- Summer schools
- Transitional work from school to further education and then further education to higher education
- Workshops for schools/colleges about higher education and student finance
- Work with parents and pupils on raising aspirations
- Career conventions and industry days
- Working with agencies and advisers of higher education
- Study days targeted specifically at under-represented groups
- Disability and cultural diversity training for LJMU staff
- Sign language training for staff involved in advising students on higher education, recruitment and post-entry support
If you are interested in coming to the University, would like to find out more about LJMU’s outreach programmes or are part of a local BME group and would like to work with the University, contact Stella Yates, Schools and Colleges Account Manager, on 0151 231 3390 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
For general information about LJMU, visit www.ljmu.ac.uk
What LJMU students say
Jide Sosimi enrolled on the BSc Forensic Science programme after completing LJMU’s Natural Sciences Foundation course. He commented: “I always wanted to go to university and LJMU’s Foundation course opened my eyes to choices I never even knew existed.”
Surina Kapur, BSc Psychology student, said: “No matter what course you do at LJMU, you’ll have the time of your life.”
Charlene Ugbode, BA Media and Cultural Studies student, remarked: “LJMU has opened up so many opportunities for me. I’ve met people from all over the world, become a qualified student trainer and worked on the student radio station and magazine. It’s been a great experience.”