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Access Insight Knowledge Transfer Project

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New report shines light on alternative routes to university

A new report produced by the OU in Wales and other university and college partners has shown a mixed picture across Wales in the recruitment of students to Access and Foundation courses. Students already studying these courses can also face varied obstacles to completing their learning or being able to progress to university / higher education. 

The Access Insight Knowledge Transfer Project was set up by the partnership to explore how learners over 16 years old, and older adults returning to learning, are able to find places on Access and Foundation courses, as well as the experience of registered students

You can download the report here

Access courses are delivered by universities and colleges to give students the chance to experience adult learning, and to discover what they could study in more detail in the future. Foundation courses can help students into higher education and degree study – particularly those without the necessary formal qualifications.

  • A study by The Open University in Wales, eight higher education (HE) and six further education (FE) partners shows gaps in provision of Access and Foundation courses across Wales.
  • Students and potential students experience various barriers including a lack of financial security, and family responsibilities.
  • Many FE students are unaware of routes into HE.
  • The report calls for more flexible and part-time provision, as well as support for learners to find courses and funding.

Following research with students and college and university staff throughout Wales, the project team found that learners on Access and Foundation courses often face specific barriers to learning. Many will be impacted by mental health issues, or will be struggling with the cost of living crisis.

Other barriers identified included challenges with public transport and road networks in order to get to campuses; and a lack of superfast broadband provision impacting on online learning. For many other students, barriers and motivators were one and the same – for example, raising young children was both an obstacle to feeling able to register for a course, as well an incentive to study and improve their job prospects.

The report also highlights several examples of good practice across the FE and HE sectors, including outreach to disadvantaged communities; and forging links with local schools.

Many staff teaching Access and Foundation courses demonstrated a passion for their work and a commitment to support learners. However, several felt that they needed more support to recruit students to the courses, especially from disadvantaged and poorly connected communities.

Among the report’s recommendations are:

  • the development of a Wales wide resource eg interactive map, to help learners identify Access and Foundation provision across Wales, and financial support
  • evaluating the financial support available to learners wishing to study part-time or during evenings
  • supporting ongoing links and networking between colleges and universities in Wales, to share best practice and research.

Ben Lewis, Director of The Open University in Wales said:

"The Access Insight Knowledge Exchange Transfer project has been a perfect example of post-16 education collaboration in action to benefit Welsh learners. We brought together all nine of Wales’ universities, and six of its colleges, to find ways of working together.

"This project found that there is a wide range of Access and Foundation provision across Wales. There is a good level of support from the Welsh Government, and an appetite to work together. There remain challenges. I’m glad that the report we are launching today explores these in detail from the perspective of both the learner and the provider.

"Access and Foundation provision remains such an important route out of poverty for so many people, so it is crucial that in the months and years that lay ahead, we grasp the opportunity that we now have, and collectively step up to the challenge of realising the changes that this report recommends."

The partner organisations involved in producing the report were:

  • Aberystwyth University
  • Bangor University
  • Bridgend College
  • Cardiff Metropolitan University
  • Cardiff and Vale College 
  • Cardiff University 
  • Coleg Cambria
  • Coleg y Cymoedd, 
  • Coleg Gwent 
  • Grŵp Llandrillo Menai 
  • The Open University in Wales
  • Swansea University
  • University of South Wales
  • University of Wales Trinity Saint David
  • Wrexham Glyndŵr University (now Wrexham University)

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