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A new multi-million pound project has been launched by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP) sees £60 million divided between 29 consortia to increase participation in higher education across disadvantaged groups.

The project aims to increase participation in higher education

Under the scheme, the Southern Universities Network (SUN) will deliver collaborative outreach in areas identified as having low overall participation in higher education. The programme will focus on providing activities, events and workshops to increase outreach involvement in local schools and colleges, especially targeting young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, young men, and ethnic minority groups.

The network’s successful bid, which is worth more than £14 million over four years, will see activity delivered to young people aged 13 – 19 living in target wards throughout Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. The network will collaborate to undertake research to identify specific areas that need addressing within the South’s target areas, and will develop new initiatives in order to overcome them.

The Southern Universities Network is a partnership comprising universities, FE colleges, HE providers, schools, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), and Education Business Partnerships (EBPs) and builds upon the work of the previous National Network of Collaborative Outreach scheme, which ended in December 2016.

 “The Southern Universities Network is looking forward to being able to complement and enhance the work that the outreach teams at our partner universities and colleges already do across the region.” said Claire O’Neill, Head of the Southern Universities Network. “The additional funds will allow us to offer a range of support and give opportunities for students from the targets wards within our area to make informed decisions to enable them to realise their full potential.”

In total, 260 higher education providers are involved in the project, following competitive bidding from local consortia. Throughout the UK HEFCE has identified target wards from which evaluative data will be recorded to ensure that the impact of regional providers is measured effectively.

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said:

We are seeing record numbers of disadvantaged young people going to university and benefitting from the real opportunities that our world class universities can offer. This funding and the schemes that have been developed by universities will make a real difference to young people in key areas.”