Reflecting and collaborating at collaborative teachers’ and advisers’ conference 

The diversity of Higher Education (HE) across the region was recently showcased at a conference organised by Go Higher West Yorkshire (GHWY) and its 13 member institutions. 

The event, which was held on 1 May at the University of Huddersfield, was aimed at individuals who support young people to make informed choices about HE.  

It was attended by a mix of delegates and the programme made for a thought provoking day.

Conference welcome 

The day began with a welcome from Professor Jane Owen-Lynch, Pro-Vice Chancellor (University of Huddersfield) and Chair of the Board of GHWY.  

This was followed by a keynote talk from Andi Brierley, Head of Access, Participation and Outcomes (Leeds Trinity University). He drew upon his practice, research, and lived experience to talk about relational poverty/health.  

Andi’s keynote was well-received and set up the day well. It provided food for thought, particularly around the potential of young people who may not initially be thought of as having the ability to progress through to HE  

Breakout sessions 

The conference featured a number of breakout sessions that focused on ‘Getting into HE’. In the morning delegates were able to pick from: 

  • Arts should be for everyone: helping students get into the arts 
  • Thinking outside the degree box: alternatives to traditional degrees 
  • Clearing is not last chance saloon: when students need a Plan B 

These received positive verbal feedback from delegates. 

Additional breakout sessions provided a rare opportunity for delegates to feed-in on specific HE-related topics that the organising committee had identified as areas where we would benefit from insight. These included how can HE providers better support students transitioning to HE, and do you feel students’ perceptions of HE have changed since the pandemic? There were six questions and it was useful to get input from delegates on the day. 

The final breakout sessions were ‘Student Support in HE’, which focused on a particular under-represented group. There were once again three options for delegates to choose from: 

  • Closing the ethnicity awarding gap: supporting Black Asian and Minioritised Ethnic Students
  • School vs Higher Education: the support available for disabled students,
  • Studying without a safety net: support for care-experienced and estranged students

I co-presented this latter with Helen Sykes (Head of GHWY). While preparing for this, I found myself reflecting on what has changed for these students in the past 12 months. In June 2023, GHWY launched our free e-learning on understanding and supporting care-experienced and estranged students. In autumn 2023, all 13 GHWY members committed to a common definition for care-experienced in HE. We covered all of these subjects in the talk, as well as our collaborative Stand Alone Pledge.  

Student panels 

The importance of listening to student voice was supported by two student panels. The first one was entitled what is the best thing about your HE provider? and the other one was a Q&A session.   

The first panel provided an opportunity for the audience to learn about each member institution in GHWY from the perspective of one of their students, including what they love about their course and the institution.  

The second panel was a chance for the audience to put questions to students from a range of HE learning and studying environments. 

Next steps 

The organising committee has held a debrief session with members to reflect on what worked about the conference and how it can be improved. At the time of writing, we are giving delegates a bit more time to complete the quantitative evaluation with a view to comparing pre- and post- scores.  

The conference received excellent feedback from those who were there, and we are looking forward to running it again in 2025. 


Tahera Mayat, GHWY Collaborative Outreach Officer