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 by Jon Cheek
, posted On 13 Nov '18
 Director, UniTasterDays.com

National Review of University Information, Advice and Guidance – what is it all about?

UniTasterDays (in collaboration with HELOA) have launched a new national survey to explore university information, advice and guidance provided in secondary schools. The survey launched last week and will remain open until mid-January 2019.

What is the survey?

This national survey, titled Higher education opportunities...Do you get enough? is for careers colleagues, teachers and support staff working in UK secondary schools. This focuses on colleagues who have a remit which includes higher education engagement.

The survey explores when university IAG and engagement in schools is starting, what provision there is (and who provides it), what gaps and barriers there are in accessing IAG provision, what schools consider to be the biggest obstacle to the higher education progression of students and crucially, the variation in practice relating to in-school university IAG both regionally and nationally.

Data themes will be explored, mapping current engagement and gaps in terms of university IAG across UK regions and if possible at a local authority, urban, rural and coastal level. This more detailed analysis will be dependent on the volume of survey response rates.

Introducing the steering group

The survey has been supported by a fantastic steering group from the higher education sector and includes Alex Baugh (University of Derby), Elliot Newstead (University of Leicester), Kate Filimon (University of Huddersfield), Phil Wagg (Staffordshire University), Steven Knowles (CU Scarborough) and Matt Horton (Aimhigher West Midlands and the University of Birmingham). As well as sitting on the steering group, Matt Horton, who has spent his career in education research will also manage the analysis of data and reporting.

We are fortunate to have received support in sharing this survey through HELOA members at higher education institutions throughout the UK as well, in addition to the Careers Development Institute, Careers England and Action on Access (amongst others).

Why are UniTasterDays doing this?

I had a meeting with the Office for Students about various initiatives last month, and I mentioned this survey, and they asked that very question during our introductory chat - and that question inspired this blog, so here goes, with three reasons why we are conducting this national survey.

1: This project follows a related project we worked on with students

For our Teachers’ Guide to University brochure, we worked on a similar project which was led by The Student Room, where over 600 university students were surveyed, and the results regarding the higher education IAG students said they received at school was fascinating.

In the student survey, approaching 50% of students stated their university engagement didn’t start until year 12 and that in-school university IAG concentrated on information related to applications, such as personal statements and how to apply. We wanted to take this further by exploring similar issues with teachers too.

2: There is limited research with teachers relating to the provision of university IAG in schools

There is a wealth of fantastic research with students exploring university IAG, often identifying a lack of this in schools. This is not the platform to go into that, but if you’re interested, check out research ranging from Connor et al. (2001) right through to the UCAS through the lens of students research (2016) with over 18,000 university applicants.

Key recommendations in the UCAS report included schools and colleges doing more to ‘encourage all learners to start thinking about post-18 choices at a younger age’, and providing ‘balanced, learner-centred information, advice, and guidance about the full range of post-16 and post-18 options available'. This research also raised concerns about the ‘variable quality of advice from schools and colleges’.

As we all know, schools have a statutory responsibility to provide higher education IAG to students through the Education Act. Yet there is evidently a huge variation in practice, which may mean subsequent student higher education progression is dependent on the school they attend. We think this should be explored further.

Careers seems to be more on the agenda now than it has been for some time – check out the new Gatsby benchmarks in England, and also the recruitment of new careers leaders through the new careers strategy to exemplify that. The word 'new' being used three times early in this paragraph is not an accident! It seemed now would be a better time than ever to explore higher education IAG with teachers too.

3: Because of the importance of higher education IAG in schools

The main reason for this project is that at UniTasterDays, we believe in the value of higher education and the importance of students making informed higher education decisions in the future. If certain schools prepare students better for future higher education decisions than others, we want to explore that further.

To put the above paragraph into context, around 1 in 3 eighteen year olds will progress into higher education. If such a large number of people start something that will be subject to such a considerable investment (both time and the cost - whatever your stance on the cost is) we believe schools should prepare them well for it. If there are gaps and barriers, we want to identify them.

Additionally, if you know a thing or two about university widening participation and fair access, you will know that there are many factors which will result in a student from a certain background being less likely to progress to higher education than another, again, schools can work with universities and other providers to address that.

How can you get involved?

If you work in a school...

Please do take a moment to have a look at the survey, and complete this if your role has a higher education remit. It will only take 5-10 minutes of your time. If you don't, we would be really grateful if you could share this with someone in the school who does. As well as contributing to such important research, there is a prize draw as a small thank you from UniTasterDays for taking part. Please click the following link to access this and find out more: https://unitasterdays.typeform.com/to/fNzcsR

If you work at a university...

If you work at a higher education institution, we are currently recruiting communication champions to be a voice to support the circulation of this to schools between now and January, as well as being on a panel to feed back on our upcoming communications relating to this. Please do get in touch to find out more!

If you are interested in this project or you can help in any way with it...

Please do contact me directly – I would be delighted to speak to you about it. Please drop me a line using [email protected]

Teachers, careers colleagues and support staff: request your FREE UniTasterDays Teachers' Guide to University brochure.

The Teachers’ Guide has been produced by UniTasterDays.com in collaboration with HELOA - to support the university guidance that is provided in secondary schools and colleges.

Editorial has been provided by over 30 colleagues at universities throughout the UK, on topics including booking online university events, the Gatsby benchmarks, university CPD opportunities, arranging subject specific events and more.

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