University outreach programme celebrates 100,000 interactions with young people

Higher Horizons +, a programme led by Keele University which works to increase accessibility to higher education, is celebrating a huge milestone having engaged with tens of thousands of young people from across Staffordshire, Cheshire and Shropshire since its inception in 2017.

Higher Horizons+ encourages young people from underrepresented groups in higher education to achieve their potential by enrolling on university courses. Much of the work is focused on young people who may be the first in their family to think about higher education, or who have low expectations of their routes through education.

All of the key partner universities, including Keele University, Staffordshire University, the University of Chester and Harper Adams University, have dedicated hubs and staff on their campuses to deliver and organise engaging and innovative activities and projects within surrounding areas.

The government-funded scheme, which has its central hub at Keele University, has delivered over 2,000 activities across 96 schools and colleges in Staffordshire, Cheshire and Shropshire in the past year alone. More than 32,000 young people aged 13-18 years-old have already taken part in a programme of free, engaging activities that are aimed at raising aspirations and increasing progression to higher education. Many of the young people have engaged with the programme on numerous occasions, with over 100,000 individual interactions in total.

Joseph, a student from Stoke-on-Trent whose prospects have been turned around thanks to the initiative, has praised the outreach programme for the positive impact it has had on his education. Joseph, who grew up in Italy in a Nigerian family and moved to England when he was 14, took part in a week-long project called White Water Writers and wrote a book, visited Keele and Oxford Universities, and engaged with the Potteries Science Festival activities at Staffordshire University.

Joseph credits the programme with boosting his confidence and exposing him to a variety of English universities. Joseph is currently in his final year at City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form where he is predicted to get top grades in his A-levels, and has recently applied to university.

Joseph said: “I thought the idea of going to university was impossible. But with Higher Horizons +, and the experiences and visits through the years, I was able to gain confidence and improve my English.”

Head of the Higher Horizons+ network, Ant Sutcliffe, said: “We are thrilled to be making an impact. We have a fantastic team of people across Staffordshire, Cheshire and Shropshire who are out in the community making a difference every day, and credit must go to our fantastic young people in the region who we engage with. They are the most talented in the country, and we just steer them in the right direction.”