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New national project to support disadvantaged students affected by COVID-19 to enter higher education launched

Minister for Universities, Michelle Donelan MP
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@MichelleDonelan launches new @Uni4Me1 online hub, bringing together 250 online activities from 50 organisations in the #HigherEd sector 

A new online hub ‘Uni4Me’ bringing together 250 online activities from 50 organisations in the higher education (HE) sector is being launched today (1 Jul) 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.

As the chair of NEON, Professor Sir Les Ebdon, ex Director of Fair Access to Higher Education states:

‘Going to university transformed my life from a kid off a corporation estate to a knight of the realm. In recent years many universities and charities have provided great programmes to overcome disadvantage but the Covid-19 lockdown threatens these efforts. Uni4Me is a great opportunity to showcase the many online programmes now available which will be so important to providing fairer opportunities for all.’

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.

As the Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan said:

“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.”

University and College Union general secretary Jo Grady said:

‘The minister talks about the government’s desire to level up Britain, to deliver greater opportunity for all and how universities must play a vital role in that mission. Unfortunately, the government is currently sleepwalking universities into severe financial difficulties due to the impact of Covid-19 on their income.

‘The government’s obsession with a graduate’s earnings as the only measure of success suggests ignorance about the real value of education. It is particularly tone deaf at a time when millions of workers educated and trained by universities are providing important public services in the midst of a severe economic crisis.

‘Instead of making the case for education, the minister appears to be trying to turn some students off university by saying it is expensive and substandard. Universities using contextual data to increase opportunity for students from the poorest backgrounds should be applauded. For the minister to say students have been left indebted and let down is quite remarkable when the Conservatives are responsible for increasing tuition fee debt and letting the private sector squeeze more and more money out of higher education.

’The government continues to attempt to pick artificial “winners” in the market it has created, denigrating certain courses and the institutions that offer them without any evidence for doing so.’

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% 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.

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