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The University of Southampton

Hampshire pupils get a head start to aim high

Published: 10 June 2009

School pupils in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight are getting a helping hand from University of Southampton students as part of a pilot project for a new £21million initiative called ‘Aimhigher Associates’ to encourage more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to consider higher education.

Aimhigher Hampshire and the Isle of Wight is one of only 17 partnerships out of 44 across the country to be taking part in the pilot phase, before the national launch of the scheme. The partnership has recruited students from the University of Southampton to act as ‘Aimhigher Associates’, providing long-term support and guidance to school pupils.

The scheme is the first of its kind to offer a long-term link between undergraduates and pupils, and it is planned that these relationships will develop over time, with the Associate on hand to support pupils in making important decisions about their education that will affect the rest of their lives. The scheme has run successfully this year and concluded with a Celebration Event at the University in May, which was attended by pupils and their Aimhigher Associate.

Janette Thompson, Aimhigher Manager at the University of Southampton said: “Aimhigher delivers a range of targeted activities to help break down the barriers that can prevent pupils from non-traditional backgrounds from progressing to higher education. Aimhigher Associates will play a significant role in this important work.”

The University of Southampton has been a key partner in the Aimhigher Hampshire and Isle of Wight partnership since its inception in 2004. The Aimhigher team at the University run on and off-campus activities for pupils in Years 7-13 from local target schools and colleges. Thousands of young people have attended a variety of on campus workshops at all six campuses since 2004.

Janette Thompson adds: “All our events are supported by a fantastic team of Student Ambassadors who are trained University of Southampton students. They work directly with the young people as role models, talking to them about their experiences and how they progressed to higher education. The Aimhigher work complements the University’s widening participation vision to recruit the best qualified students from the widest possible backgrounds.”

Aimhigher Associates will be launched nationwide during the first ever Aimhigher Week (8-12 June) and will see more than 21,000 pupils teamed up with around 5,500 Associates.

Aimhigher Week is a new government initiative to raise aspirations of 14 to 16 year olds by engaging them in university and college activities across a range of subjects from robotics and law to theatre production and sports science. Thanks to initiatives such as Aimhigher, record numbers of young people now enter Higher Education. Of those, the number going to university from underrepresented backgrounds rose by eight per cent.

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