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The Research and Evaluation Project Hub instigates innovative research and evaluation across the Southern Universities Network (SUN) Partnership. Representatives from across the partnership, including higher education providers, schools, further education colleges and local authorities, will  meet to share knowledge and direct strategic research and evaluation projects to support young peoples’ progression to HE.

The main aims of the Hub are to:

  1. Provide at least two webinars (per year) on current research and evaluation taking place by academics, outreach practitioners and/or /education professionals in SUN target schools
  2. Identify Research and Evaluation that can inform the conversation about current challenges in ensuring equity in education across the SUN region
  3. Provide an opportunity for members to identify additional opportunities to work collaboratively on research or evaluation projects


SUN have published the findings from the CFE survey completed by students from schools within the
SUN region. The CFE provide national evaluation of the Uni Connect Programme. The data is linked to
tracking and national administrative data to understand the impact of the Uni Connect programme
has on learners attitudes to HE and progression.

As a whole, this provides insight to what activities work well within the Uni Connect Programme and

what is considered to be effective outreach.

Please contact Matt Hockings (SUN Evaluation and Impact Officer) for further queries:

SUN Young Researchers Celebration Event 2019

We are the SUN Young Researchers, a group made up of 15 students, aged 14-18 from across the south coast. The SUN asked us to help with a critical piece of youth led participatory research across Hampshire and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole with the support of the Participation People (

**NEW!** SUN Young Champions: T-levels and technical qualifications

The SUN Young Champions were challenged to explore what young people knew about Technical Qualifications and T-Levels and what schools and education providers were doing to promote them. The SUN Young Champions contacted schools and colleges to find out their awareness, perceptions and opinions of T-Levels. Their survey reached 1,070 young people aged 11- 18 and 202 educational professionals. This report outlines headline findings and provides suggestions on how to support young people discover the benefits of technical qualifications. Click here to view the report.

**NEW!** June 2021 – November 2021: Digital Inclusion

31 young people aged 14 – 19, honed their research and facilitation skills as Southern Universities Network (SUN) Young Champions. The Young Champions were challenged to explore how access to the internet affects young people’s learning. They looked at how young people get online and why and when they need to. Young people were asked about barriers to digital engagement. The report shares recommendations for education institutions and those working in outreach to support students who experience digital exclusion. The report can be accessed here.

October 2019 – April 2020: Education for All

This year we are working on developing our findings from the 2018/19 academic year. SUN have asked us to think about how schools, colleges and universities can make activities and learning more inclusive to support young people, and their families, to progress further in education.

Our findings from this year’s project will contribute towards the review and consultation of local collaborative outreach partnerships. Check out the report here.

January 2019 – May 2019: Improving engagement in outreach

Over 5 months we designed, implemented and analysed a survey which asked young people what would encourage them to take part in higher education (HE) outreach activities and their personal barriers to progressing to HE. Our report outlines how universities and schools can work together to ensure young people can participate in outreach activities and feel more involved in the design of activities. Check out our report video here!

Post COVID-19 Barriers 2 Education

In 2019-20 Dorset and SUN Young Researchers conducted research into young people’s Barriers to Education in Dorset, Bournemouth, Christchurch, Poole and Hampshire. Following the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lock-down, the young researchers wanted to see what affect the pandemic had on young people in Dorset and Hampshire, accessing the education and opportunities they wanted to. This is their full report and is screen reader friendly! Click here to read the report.

#YouthVoice Pioneers Podcast

Check out the latest episode in the #YouthVoice Pioneers Podcast series. From ‘Online Safety’ to ‘Lockdown 3.0’ there are lots of interesting topics to listen to! Click here to check them out!.

The aim of this research was to investigate the factors which affect the likelihood of a learner from a disadvantaged background making a technical apprenticeship their career choice. This stemmed from previous research by two of the authors which had found that there were a low number of engineering apprentices from disadvantaged backgrounds enrolled at a local south coast college. Given recent governmental reforms of careers advice and guidance, the research was particularly interested in careers advice and guidance from the perspective of target learners and how this may impact upon apprenticeship progression.

This research aims to identify the true barriers that some young people (aged 14-19 years of age) perceive and experience which prevents their progression to higher education.  The young people and parents for the pilot come from two of the 70 electoral target wards across Hampshire.

The primary data for the research was a qualitative method using Appreciative Inquiry (AI) based on the work of Cooperrider and Srivastva (1987). This method was selected because it was important to have an approach that would encourage all individuals to have a voice and, enable complexities to be identified and discussed from all their perspectives.

Our research themes for the 2019/20 academic year are networks established through Uni Connect and education decision-making processes of young people in target wards.

At the end of 2016, Southern Universities Network commissioned two research projects which sought to examine the disadvantage experienced by white working class males in relation to their progression into higher education.

The pre-entry study, undertaken by ARC Network and co-ordinated by Southampton Solent University, explored the perceptions, barriers and enablers to HE progression from the perspective of white working class learners in schools and colleges across the city of Southampton.  Post-entry research, undertaken by the University of Portsmouth, explored the participation of white working class men within an institutional context, with a particular focus on examining higher education entry and aspirations of current HE learners.

The study offers a unique understanding of white working class males across the both pre and post entry phase and it is hoped that the research will support SUN members in planning and developing both institutional and collaborative widening participation programmes, including Uni Connect (formerly the  National Collaborative Outreach Programme).

These studies also support work undertaken across the country by organisations such as OFFA .

This collaborative research project between University of Portsmouth and Havant and South Downs College provides information on how BTeC students make decisions about progression to higher education. The research was undertaken between January 2020 and July 2021 during Phase 2 of the Uni Connect programme. The researchers identify important recommendations for Universities to consider in widening participation in higher education.