UCLan joins new national project to support disadvantaged students affected by COVID-19

30 June 2020

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has today pledged its support for a new national initiative to help disadvantaged students affected by COVID-19 into higher education.

A new online hub ‘Uni4Me’ brings together 250 online activities from 50 organisations in the higher education (HE) sector which has been launched today by the Minister of State for Universities, Michelle Donelan.

The online hub, led by the National Education Opportunities Network (NEON) and funded by the participating organisations, will act as central portal where learners, parents and teachers can access free activities to help them progress to HE. Uni4Me will offer free, interactive activities including virtual courses in a range of subjects led by university academics; online tuition and support in core GCSE/A Level academic subjects; live events involving leading academics, students and specialist HE advisors; information sessions for parents/carers and virtual campus tours.

UCLan’s Dr Liz Granger, Head of Widening Participation & Public Engagement, said: “The COVID crisis has had a disproportionately negative effect on disadvantaged communities and highlighted the need for enhanced support for learners. This is especially the case in Lancashire, where 6 of the 14 areas are within the most deprived 20 percent in the country.

"Here at UCLan we’re fully behind this new initiative which will enhance our extensive widening participation activities with schools, colleges and community groups. Providing fairer opportunities for all, so young people can reach their potential."

Alongside the online resources on Uni4Me, and in a strategy designed to help with the catch-up needed after this year’s school closures ahead of next academic year, UCLan is offering free summer tutoring to young people from backgrounds under-represented at university.

The news follows on from last week’s announcement when the University signed former Education Secretary Justine Greening’s Social Mobility Pledge to tackle Britain’s widespread lack of social mobility.

Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan added: “This has been an incredibly challenging time for pupils and it has never been more important for the sector to give every pupil the information and support they need to choose the right pathways for them. That is why I am delighted to launch Uni4Me, a platform to help students with the talent and ability to access and succeed within our world-leading universities, regardless of their background.”

Uni4Me will support HE providers and Uni Connect partnerships in their work to widen access to higher education for those from under-represented groups. Over £600 million in 2020-21 has being invested by HE providers and the government to close gaps in HE participation between those from different backgrounds.

Uni4Me will make a significant contribution to the work that the UK HE sector is doing to address disadvantage in the context of Covid-19. Research by NEON indicates that over 80 percent of HE providers do not expect to be able to work in schools before January 2021 due to the impact of Covid-19. Participation in the Uni4Me hub will be tracked to enable schools, colleges and universities to ensure that those who most need it are benefiting from the resources on offer. The aim is to expand the activities on offer from Uni4Me over the next year and work with more partners from across educational sectors.