HEFCE research has exposed gaps in the higher education outcomes between different student groups. These gaps in attainment and progression to further study and employment persist even when background characteristics and prior attainment are taken into account. HEFCE has announced the launch of the national Catalyst funded project – the Addressing barriers to student success programme – to tackle the causes of these disparities. Professor Gina Wisker, Dr Rachel Masika and Catherine McConnell are leading on the University of Brighton's contribution to this endeavour.
The projects will particularly benefit those student groups affected by differential outcomes highlighted in previous HEFCE research, including black and minority ethnic students, students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, disabled students (including those presenting with mental health issues and specific learning difficulties), mature students and part-time students.
The programme focuses on scaling up activities already proven to be successful in individual higher education providers, and will identify how good practice and interventions can be validated, replicated, transmitted and embedded across a wider range of providers. Projects will generate evidence across inclusive teaching and learning practices, employability, learning analytics, and wellbeing.
Changing mindsets is an innovative intervention initially developed for schools and Further Education colleges. It is a student and staff workshop approach, avoiding a student deficit model, that builds a growth mindset: the belief that ability develops through effort and by embracing challenge. Developing a growth mindset has been shown to have profound motivational impacts on learners and on staff expectations of learners that have effects on attainment gaps.
At the University of Brighton, the intervention will be embedded into the existing PASS (Peer Assisted Study Sessions) training for students, which engages over 100 student mentors every year with over a 1000 first-year students across the university. The Centre for Learning and Teaching (CLT) will deliver the staff-facing workshops through existing staff development events and courses. Our target cohort is to engage approximately 625 students and 100 academic staff in years 2017/18 and again in 2018/19 and evaluate their experiences of being involved.
HEFCE have awarded £500k to five project partners, including the University of Portsmouth, Canterbury Christchurch, University of the Arts London, and the University of Winchester. The University of Brighton are receiving approximately £64k to fund the coordination, delivery and evaluation of the project, with at least £15k of this sum to go directly to students as incentives for taking part. The matched funding that Brighton has pledged to the project includes significant contributions of leadership, research expertise and development from the CLT staff involved.