A lesson in School and College Liaison. How can you effectively engage with a university?
My first piece of advice is please don’t be afraid to ask a university for help! Most universities have a team of enthusiastic and friendly staff who are able to offer a range of services to support schools and colleges in preparing students for higher education - as well as staff who will be willing to travel to you.
I’ve met many teachers and advisers over the years who have been surprised that I’ll spend four hours driving to them to speak to their students about choosing a university. Sat navs, motorway service stations and budget hotel chains all play a big part in the life of a Schools and Colleges Liaison Officer! And, most important of all, there is no charge to schools and colleges for any of these services.
Here are a few examples of the types of support that is available:
We understand that you’re busy, and that supporting your students with their choices might be a very small part of your role – although it might not feel that way sometimes!
Universities offer a range of talks and workshops that can be tailored to your school/ college timetable. Topics include; choosing a university; the UCAS process and how to apply; personal statements; preparing students for interviews/preparing portfolios and student finance.
Most universities will be very happy to deliver something more specific if required, such as a session on applying for medicine courses.
The main benefit of these talks and workshops is that the person delivering it will have the most up-to-date knowledge and information from the sector and will be able to offer your students answers to many of their questions. The students will be given the opportunity to ask questions in front of the group or at the end of the session on a one-to-one basis.
University schools and colleges liaison teams are also available to support with parents’ evenings and careers events. You might feel it’s worthwhile for a university to deliver a talk to parents on student finance, for example, or you might want to invite a university to have an exhibition stand at your event, where they can offer information and guidance to parents on an individual basis. Students will also have the opportunity to collect a prospectus and other useful materials.
Another useful service many universities provide is mock interviews. This offers your students the chance to practise their interview skills and receive valuable feedback on their interview performance, before they experience the real thing!
With so much choice available to them, it’s important that students find out where their Level 3 subject choices can take them. To support this decision-making, universities offer lots of opportunities for students to engage with subject-level activities before they make their application. This could be on-campus or at the school or college. Invitations and booking details will usually be sent to Heads of Subject Areas.
On-campus events such as ‘taster days’, ‘masterclasses’ and ‘experience days’ – are held throughout the academic year, and offer students the opportunity to use first-class facilities and to hear from academic staff, who are often experts in their field. This offers students the opportunity to consider what studying subject X at University Y might be like.
Where staff and transport costs mean that visits to universities aren’t always an option, academic staff are available to visit your school or college to deliver talks and workshops, which can be tailored to support an area of the Level 3 curriculum, where possible.
Whilst the majority of this activity focusses on school and college students, we haven’t forgotten about school staff as well. We want to make sure you feel supported throughout the process, and are confident and able to provide your students with the information they require.
Support for teachers and advisers can range from annual higher education conferences which will offer a great opportunity to network with people in similar roles from across the UK, and hear from high profile speakers from the sector.
Universities might also offer subject level conferences for teaching staff, so your colleagues will also have the opportunity to hear from experts, and pick up a few handy tips for delivering particularly challenging areas of the curriculum.
Finally, you may also feel that your colleagues could be called upon to support with an element of the university application process at your school or college, but would benefit from some training provided by a university beforehand, on personal statements and reference writing, for example.