On Tuesday 21st April AccessHE hosted a virtual roundtable meeting for its HEI members to discuss the impact that covid-19 is having on HE access and participation work in London. The meeting was a useful opportunity for members to discuss shared challenges and concerns, and also to exchange strategies for continuing to support disadvantaged learners into, through and out of HE in the present climate. A closing discussion considered ways in which the membership, with AccessHE’s support, could usefully pool resources to provide effective virtual outreach and support current widening participation students.
AccessHE members joining the call pointed to the barriers that the closure of schools and campuses presents when it comes engaging with specific harder to reach groups in HE progression work, especially as they are very often the same groups who do not have internet access and use of a personal computer at home. However, a clear takeaway from the meeting was the resourcefulness and dedication of the AccessHE membership in establishing new online forms of student support and outreach activity in such quick time. This is testament to their anchor institution roles in London. The variety of the newly-developed activity was striking, encompassing attainment-raising support, online taster sessions, live-streamed content, and community resources. A snapshot of this is available via Twitter using the #AccessHEHour handle.
The membership agreed to explore the development of collaborative virtual outreach events targeted to regional clusters of schools in London, and to find ways of extending paid opportunities to deliver HE outreach work in London to current students, many of whom have been financially disadvantaged by the coronavirus outbreak.