University Tips Blog
Image of building blocks to illustrate link building
A headshot image of the author, Christine Canavan

by Christine Canavan

Contracts & Communications Officer at Shaping Futures (Uni Connect Programme)

posted on 24 Oct '22

How schools and colleges can build links with universities

Building links with universities is an excellent way of providing your students with high quality educational experiences, ran by professionals with years of experience delivering engaging outreach events.

Whilst the most obvious benefits link to achieving Gatsby Benchmark 7 (encounters with further and higher education), engaging with these activities can also support a school to meet multiple Gatsby Benchmarks, whilst inspiring learners to consider their future education and careers.

Here are some hints and tips to help you to get started: (where you are reading this!) is an excellent starting position to find out about events in your area (and further afield). This is a free resource for schools to connect directly with higher education providers. From this website you can search for events including open days, subject tasters, summer schools and much more. You can contact the team and even request event support directly from universities using this platform.

You can also organise activities directly through higher education providers. Most universities and higher education providers will have a dedicated team (usually called Outreach, Student Recruitment or Widening Participation). Widening Participation in higher education is a key priority for the Department for Education. It aims to increase the participation of those groups which are currently underrepresented in higher education, such as students from disadvantaged backgrounds. There may be targeted projects available to learners who meet this criteria.

It is often possible to request bespoke activities, for example, sending a message like:

“I would like to take my Year 12s to a university campus during June so they can find out more about higher education options.”


"From conversations I’ve had, students are really confused about how they will afford university. They are also curious about what it would be like to move away from home and what student life is like. Please could you advise if you’re able to facilitate an activity which will cover these aspects?”

Image of an online meeting between a teacher and a university outreach team

CPD and Networking Opportunities:

Links with higher education providers can also support with practitioner continued professional development (CPD). Some universities will invite staff to attend directly, but if you follow your local institutions outreach pages on their social media platform such as LinkedIn and Twitter, they will promote upcoming CPD and training sessions. Examples of this may include personal statement workshops, understanding the student finance system or the UCAS processes.

If you have any specific requests, you can contact them directly, here is an example: “I have a student who is applying for university this year and exploring eligibility for the Disabled Students Allowance to support her whilst she studies. This is the first time I’ve supported a student through this process, could you provide me with any resources? In addition, can I signpost the student to any other university support on offer?”

And do not forget to network! Attend Teachers and Advisors events, meet other teachers and find out about outreach in the area. Some schools may also be eligible for extra support through your local Uni Connect Partnership. Each hub is partnered with their local further and higher education landscape and will utilise this knowledge to provide impartial information, advice and guidance to eligible pupils. The programme was set up in 2017 to support the social mobility goals of the government, to increase the number of young people from underrepresented groups going into higher education.

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