Raising participation in HE at Wakefield College

Too few young people resident in Wakefield District chose to progress into HE, even though they are qualified to do so, and there is a good chance that this would improve their life chances. Wakefield College recognises its role in addressing this, and this is reflected in our HE strategy, involvement in NCOP etc.

This article features two initiatives, a revised tutorial plan for students on Advanced vocational 16-18 study programmes, and a Go Higher Rewards Scheme.

In 2016-17, 46% of students completing these study programmes progressed onto a Higher Education programme in the following year. This increased by 8% in 2017-18, and the HE participation target for this cohort of students in 2018-19 is 64%. The tutorial plan is seen as a key driver to support this, and includes a range of HE engagement activities spread across the two years of study. Whilst some activities in the plan have been delivered for many years, e.g. the College HE Fair, the revised plan seeks to provide a logical framework for HE progression consistently to the whole cohort regardless of which curriculum area the students are enrolled to, and places equal value on external and internal progression.

The main activities are as follows:

Year 1

  • A letter from the Principal outlining the value of higher level skills.
  • An activity during Navigate Your Future week which includes input from a vocationally relevant employer on the need for higher level skills in their industry and the benefits for employees of having these skills. This has proved to be influential with many students.
  • The College Next Steps Fair, which now includes apprenticeship providers and employers as well as HE providers.
  • A university visit.
  • A Higher Education Experience event in the College’s University Centre which includes information and activities on student finance, different HE experiences and subject taster sessions.
  • A Higher Education Open Event in the University Centre.

Year 2

  • An introduction to the University Centre Go Higher Rewards Scheme.
  • Support on applications including personal statements.
  • A Go Higher Project activity which involves researching and reporting on a topic.

The Go Higher Reward Scheme is an additional bursary which students who progress internally onto full-time programmes in the University Centre are eligible for. The scheme recognises the financial pressures faced by students in the University Centre, where 70% of the cohort are resident in POLAR4 Q1 and Q2 areas, and the negative impact of unconditional offers made by some regional universities. The scheme consists of three components (pass, prepare and progress) and is worth £600 to a student who meets all the criteria. Eligible students are rewarded for passing their main programme of study, with a bonus for achieving above their target grade, and for preparing to study in HE e.g. by passing the Go Higher Project.

It is too early to assess the impact of these initiatives, however the activity evaluations have consistently shown that students say they are more likely to progress into HE after the activity than they were before.


Tony Rex, Director of Higher Education Development, Wakefield College