We believe that everyone deserves an equal opportunity to study at Edinburgh

The what, where, why, when, and who of Widening Participation at the University of Edinburgh.

How we undertake vital early engagement with communities where there is no history of HE in order to widen access and raise aspirations.

How we ensure transparency and flexibility in our admissions, qualifications and financial support to make Edinburgh an attractive choice for everyone.

How we tackle ongoing barriers for our learners and embed support to enhance the student experience for everyone.

How we support all of our students, regardless of background, to aspire and progress into their chosen careers or further studies upon graduating.


From the blog

Fundraising for Widening Participation intiatives

In this post, David Haines, Head of Philanthropy, University Programmes at the University of Edinburgh, highlights how their fundraising strategy for institutional projects includes a specific focus on Widening Participation…

Since joining Edinburgh, a few people have told me that they have the best job in the University. They are all wrong – because, in fact, I do.

Based in the Development & Alumni office, I lead on the University’s fundraising strategy for institutional initiatives, chief among which is Widening Participation (WP). I spend a lot of my working week as the conduit between a community of people who give to WP programmes – most of whom are former students themselves – and the scholars who benefit from their support.

Asking graduates to give back to their alma mater is by no means a new idea; in fact, the practice of making a gift to your old University has increasingly become a considered and thoughtful part of the alumni experience in the UK. Put simply, a large and growing number of alumni want to make their experience at Edinburgh more attainable for someone who might otherwise miss out – and, in doing, so create an environment for learning and teaching that is more representative of the world we live in.

My colleagues and I are rightly asked challenging and thought-provoking questions every day: How will you spend my money? How do you know that it’s really needed? What’s my gift going to achieve? For people considering a gift to a WP project, the answers to those questions are straightforward and compelling:

We spend the money on students: A huge advantage of our University’s commitment to this agenda is that every penny donated to us can go directly to helping a student for whom tertiary education might otherwise be out of reach.
We know our audience: Every initiative we run, whether it’s an activity day in a primary school, or a programme designed for mature students at an FE College, is based on longstanding experience and insightful partnership. Our donors know they can trust us to reach the people who need their help the most.
We see the impact: From long-range outcome studies to a handwritten ‘Thank you’ card from a scholarship recipient, our office works across the University to show donors the outcomes that their gifts are achieving. It’s as inspiring for us as it is for anyone else…

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2019 Insights Programme

Insights Programme: Connecting with Alumni to support Widening Participation students’ career trajectories.

In this post, Eilidh Steele, Internships Manager at the Careers Service, highlights the Insights Programme, which exemplifies the fourth and final strand of the Widening Participation Strategy: ‘Support to Progress”. This strand ensures that “targeted information, advice and guidance should be easily available to WP students so they build the skills, expertise, experience and networks to make their next step” (WP Strategy 2018 -2021 Guiding Principles). Edinburgh’s Insights programmes is an example of a project directly set up to tackle this issue of ‘social capital’ and support students who do not have the connections or resources to access work experience…

The Careers Service aims to open students’ eyes to the wealth of possibilities ahead of them, while at university and after graduation, helping them to explore new avenues, tap into their talents and build upon their employability with confidence and enthusiasm. To support the Widening Participation strategy, and working in partnership with Development and Alumni, the Widening Participation Team and Edinburgh Global, the Careers Service piloted the Insights programme last summer to provide funded opportunities to help 50 Widening Participation students achieve this.

Gaining professional work experience and building your network can significantly increase your chances of career success. The Insights programme brings together Alumni and students in cities around the world and in Central Scotland. Though a combination of meetings, work-shadowing and short projects, students learn about the career path of the Alumni and their sector or work.  The experience helps to increase students’ aspirations, as many who take part have not considered these areas of work open to them, and enables them to access a network that could support them in the future.

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School of Mathematics Access Scholarship

Supporting Widening Participation students to succeed with the School of Mathematics Access Scholarship. In this post, Grace Sansom, Recruitment Officer in the School of Mathematics, highlights how their School offers scholarships to help alleviate financial pressures, which is one of the most common barriers Widening Participation students encounter. This example complements the third strand of the Widening Participation Strategy, which centres on ‘Support to Succeed’. This strand focuses on the disadvantages Widening Participation (WP) students face during their studies, and therefore may “find it harder…to succeed academically, pastorally, and socially within the University environment.” (WP Strategy 2018-2021 Guiding Principles)…

My role as Recruitment Officer for the School of Mathematics is to attract a talented and diverse cohort of students to study Mathematics at Edinburgh. One key priority that we have identified in our recruitment strategy is the need to support students from Widening Participation (WP) backgrounds, and the ‘School of Mathematics Access Scholarships’ are one of the ways we are working to enable and encourage more students to choose Edinburgh for their undergraduate studies.

For students from WP backgrounds, some of the biggest concerns about attending university are moving away from home, and the cost of financing their studies. Even with loans and bursaries from local funding bodies (such as SAAS and Student Finance England), as well as University of Edinburgh schemes such as ‘The Scotland Scholarship’, it is sometimes not enough. As a result, WP students are more likely to attend a local university and live at home when they study. If they do move away, lots of students find they have to work part-time to make ends meet and therefore have less time to focus on their studies.

All of these factors limit students in their choice of institution, and ultimately gives them an altogether different university experience. It should instead be an informed choice where they have consciously made that decision!

To combat some of this, the School of Maths have created the ‘School of Mathematics Access Scholarships’ to encourage high-achieving students to study Mathematics here and to support them in making the move to university.

The scholarships are aimed at students who are:

• Attending high schools with low progression to Higher Education
• Young people with care experience
• Young carers
• Living in areas of multiple deprivation (identified by postcode)
• Involved in LEAPS or similar Widening Participation programmes.

In addition, eligible students will have evidenced or be predicted to achieve a strong academic performance before starting university.

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Scottish Wider Access Programme

Scottish Wider Access Programme: Supporting adults returning to education. In this post, Lesley Dunbar, Director of the Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP), explains how SWAP supports the second strand of the Widening Participation Strategy: ‘Support to Get In’. SWAP offers a strong commitment towards a ‘transparent route into the University for learners undertaking a range of qualifications in a range of settings’. The University is proud to support SWAP (and SWAP East, situated on Buccleuch Place and is a partnership between colleges and universities in the east of Scotland), which aims to support access to higher education for adults returning to education – an important and often overlooked student group. SWAP students are eligible for a context plus flag in Edinburgh’s admissions process and therefore (wherever possible) will be made an offer…

The Scottish Wider Access Programme is a partnership of colleges and universities in Scotland. Our aim is to promote and support widening access to higher education for adults who have been out of education for some time and who, mostly, have qualifications below Level 6. Colleges across Scotland run one year SWAP access programmes to prepare students for entering higher education. Some are specialist, e.g., in Engineering, Medical Studies, Nursing, whilst others such as the Physical/Life Sciences or the Humanities programmes are more general and offer routes into many different degrees. Last year, over 1600 mature students (from as far south as Galloway to as far north as Thurso) studied on a SWAP access programme. Of those who successfully completed the year, over 90% entered higher education. All universities in Scotland offer places to SWAP students.

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