Ulster University (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2023 Proceedings
Publication year: 2023
Pages: 2178-2184
ISBN: 978-84-09-55942-8
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2023.0610
Conference name: 16th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 13-15 November, 2023
Location: Seville, Spain
Ulster University has a high proportion of widening access and participation (WAP) students equating to 37.3% of the undergraduate student population for 2022/23. Regionally Ulster has the largest number of WAP students and this session will seek to share the many ways the University tries to reduce barriers to learning.

Ulster supports WAP students and reduces barriers via a range of financial support and interventions including for example: Bursaries, the Technology Fund, Scholarships, Retention and Success Projects, Peer Mentoring services and Research and Impact Projects. All have been carefully designed as part of the University’s statutory annual Widening Access and Participation Plan to reduce barriers and help students succeed.

During this session the presenters will share information the key interventions outlined below which were delivered during academic year 2022/23. Information about their impact, what was effective and what was challenging will be discussed.

During 2023/23, over £1.8 million in Access Bursaries, Care Leavers’ Bursaries and Accommodation Vouchers were distributed to eligible students. Further new bursaries will be available for 2023/24.

*Technology Fund
All students who require technology and meet WAP eligibility criteria are be invited to apply for a laptop. Since 2020 over 1500 laptops have been provided.

Community and Care Experienced Scholarships are available to help more students access HE. These aim to address inequality and are open to applicants who meet multiple WAP criteria. 78 Community scholars were enrolled during 2022/23. A further 26 Community Scholarships are available for 2023/24.

*Retention and Success Projects.
During 2022/23 the University offered Studiosity ‘Writing Feedback’ and ‘Connect Live’ Service and Quickly to support retention and success.

*Peer Mentoring
During 2022/23 the University completed a pilot with Studiosity to offer a new coordinated and quality-assured Peer Mentoring Service called ‘Student Connect’ for all new first year students (2021-2023). Students who needed help, were able to request help from student mentors who had been appointed, using technology. The main purpose of this service was to aid student retention and provide an additional route for first year students to seek one support.

Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) were also offered to programmes participating in the scheme. Timely help can reinforce student learning, raise confidence and aid retention. Peer mentoring opportunities allow our talented student mentors to give something back to those starting their learning journey.

*Research and Impact projects
During 2022/23 a research project called ‘Taking Boys Seriously’ (TBS) delivered a TBS Boys & Young Men’s Summit for 200 young men. It contributed to the wider research goal of raising educational aspirations and opportunities for young boys/men from community backgrounds that are under-represented in Higher Education.

Another research and Impact project /workstream involved using both external and internal data to develop a range of new agile interactive data dashboards for WAP benchmarking, targeting and evaluation purposes.

Key evaluation findings will be shared during this session. Presenters will also impart what worked well, challenges encountered and communicate future plans for delivery and impact of new interventions during 2023/24.
Peer mentoring, student retention and success, employability, widening access, interactive dashboards, analytics.