£420k to tackle barriers to student employment

graduates PR

9 March 2017

  • Aston leads successful bid for cash to help set a level playing field for students applying for graduate jobs, regardless of their background
  • HEFCE Catalyst Fund puts aside £7.5 million to counteract exposed gaps between certain student groups

Aston University led a successful bid for £420,000 to be shared across four partner universities to close the gaps in employment outcomes between students, supporting every graduate to reach their potential.

The project was made possible through match funding by the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s (HEFCE) Catalyst Fund, and is particularly focussed on employment rates for students who are disabled, from Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities, and those from a lower socio-economic background.

To do this, the money will go towards scaling up programmes that are already proven to increase employability and refocussing them to target student groups with lower employment rates. At Aston, this includes the Talent Bank placement matching service which targets students who have disengaged from the standard placement process and offers tailored recruitment support to help students reengage to secure a year-long placement in the UK or overseas.

The funds will also help open access to Aston’s Professional Mentoring Scheme which matches business profiles with second year students to work one-to-one, helping them gain an insight into professional life.

In partnership with Birmingham City University, University of London and University of Ulster, each institution will use the cash to introduce new initiatives drawn from other partners’ experience, as well as upscaling their existing initiatives.

Professor Helen Higson, Provost and Deputy Vice Chancellor of Aston University, said: “Aston has a reputation for widening access to higher education to students from all walks of life. This funding will be indispensable to our commitment not only to provide these students with a world-class education, but to prepare them for a successful and fulfilling career. Our work placement programme is proven to improve the likelihood of students finding a graduate-level job, and with HEFCE’s support we can do more to make the programme even more accessible.”

This is one of 17 projects involving 64 higher education providers aimed at addressing the differences in student outcomes. A total of £7.5 million has been put aside by the HEFCE Catalyst Fund to tackle this issue.

HEFCE research has exposed gaps in the higher education outcomes between different student groups. These gaps in attainment and progression to further study and employment persist even when background characteristics and prior attainment are taken into account. HEFCE has announced the launch of the ‘Addressing barriers to student success’ programme to tackle the causes of these disparities.

Robust evaluation is a critical aspect of the programme. Alongside individual project evaluations, an independent programme-wide evaluation team will review project outcomes and identify key learning from the programme.

HEFCE will establish a network to support dialogue, engagement and exchange of knowledge between projects, starting with a launch event on Monday 8 May 2017. Throughout the programme, events and communications will ensure that good practice and lessons learnt are shared with all higher education providers.

HEFCE Chief Executive Madeleine Atkins said: “The significant response from higher education providers to this funding call demonstrates their commitment to ensuring all students benefit from a vibrant, inclusive, world-class higher education experience. Funding this programme will support real progress towards closing the unacceptable differences in outcomes between groups of students. We look forward to working with providers to make sure this targeted, evidence-led investment maximises outcomes for students – contributing to improved productivity and social mobility and, of course, individual opportunities.”


Notes to the editor

More information on the Catalyst Fund can be found here - http://www.hefce.ac.uk/funding/catalyst/

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston University has been always been a force for change. For more than 50 years the University has been transforming lives through pioneering research, innovative teaching and graduate employability success. Aston is renowned for its opportunity enabler through broad access and inspiring academics, providing education that is applied and has real impact on all areas of society, business and industry. True to Aston’s Coat of Arms which bears the word ‘Forward’, in 2016 Aston recently held a year-long anniversary celebration to recognise its heritage and achievements, but with a focus to drive forward the next stage in the University’s exciting journey. www.aston.ac.uk/50

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