and targeting – be
kind to your outreach
The Uni Connect programme is a national
outreach initiative that supports young people
who are likely to achieve the grades needed
for higher education but are unlikely to go. To
justify spending, it considers ‘what works’ –
this means tracking learners to see where they
end up, and evaluating activities to assess
Our unique ways of working can be seen as
inconvenient and demanding. We hear you! But
let us explain...
Tracking the learners we work with means
collecting data about them. This isn’t as scary
as it sounds – put simply, we want to see if
our activities influence their future educational
We request registers of attendance because
we need proof of our work; and learners and
parents are asked about their background
when we add them to tracking databases.
We understand that this causes sleepless
nights for your school data protection lead,
but each Uni Connect partnership has its own
data protection lead too, trained in the latest
data policy and legislation, backed up by a
university Data Protection Officer. Our data
requests are not opportunistic or ad hoc; we
have got your back.
Then there’s the mean targeting. We want to
widen participation, don’t we? Why not do it for
everyone? Well, because resources are few we
More importantly, we have been charged with
narrowing the gap between the most and least
privileged entering higher education. It would
be far meaner of us to help those who don’t
need it over the wall, while just teasing those at
the bottom of the ladder with a few rungs.
‘Widening’ Participation is the name of the
sector, but ‘narrowing’ the gap is the name of
the game. This is why we target.
And then we are constantly asking Johnny how
he feels about each activity and about higher
education. We need to show that activities
meet a standard, and have ‘impact’ with
learners undergoing ‘shifts’ in their attitudes
towards higher education.
‘What works’ must be tested and replicated.
Outreach is not always about converting
forlorn youth from a state of Dickensian
despair to that of climbing every aspirational
mountain; it is more nuanced, and we need
data to understand it fully. Besides ‘conversion’,
it is about consolidation – ensuring that those
interested in higher education are not lost to
the forces of disillusion and misinformation;
and about contemplation - getting young
people to consider higher education and
scrutinise their futures.
Your outreach practitioner only asks of you
what is being demanded of them. We know
that our requirements place a burden on you
but be kind to your outreach practitioner; if
they can’t track the learners they engage and
evaluate the impact of activities, the days of
impartial university outreach are numbered.