Three years of impact in Scotland: a view from our partners

An integral part of our partnership with the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, Community Liaison Officers, Tom and Niamh reflect on their roles, how their efforts enrich IntoUniversity’s offering for its young people and how the partnership has grown in the three years since its inception.

Tom started his role in  November 2021. ‘Until that point, I had spent a large part of my career working in education and the third sector. I had heard of IntoUniversity mainly through whispers of the excellent work they had been doing down in England. So, when I was offered the job here at the University of Edinburgh, I was excited to be working in partnership with such a well-regarded organisation.

‘When I started the role the Covid-19 pandemic still lingered in the air. There were a lot of logistical challenges facing both universities and the newly established IntoUniversity centres in Scotland. Universities were still not able to host provision in person and the newly established centres in Craigmillar, Govan and Maryhill were delivering in person provision with a restricted programme. I was very impressed in those early days by the commitment and resilience of the centre teams and their passion for the young people under their care. I am pleased to say that this commitment to the young people they work with is here till the present day.

‘This commitment to delivering excellent provision and care I can also see echoed in the warm reception to the project at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow. When I first started, I was a little hesitant that academic colleagues would not be as enthusiastic about this partnership as I was. Academic staff are very busy and I thought maybe their commitment to help young people was low on their priority list. How wrong I was! I am overwhelmed by the support and willingness to help. I can safely say that every request I have asked for has been met with warmth, enthusiasm and a willingness to deliver the best for the young people. It is really encouraging to see academics and other staff go above and beyond for the young people.

‘The partnership with the University of Glasgow has been another highlight of the role so far. It has been so great to work with so many excellent colleagues in Glasgow who share the same commitment and values as myself. I would see ourselves as a good benchmark for how cross-institutional collaboration can work effectively.’

Niamh is a slightly newer member of the partnership, with this week marking ten months in her role as University of Glasgow’s Community Liaison Officer. ‘I can wholeheartedly say the experience has been both fulfilling and eye-opening for me. Having had a passion for widening participation (WP) for several years now, it has been wonderful to be involved in IntoUniversity’s mission to encourage children as young as seven to consider university regardless of their life circumstances. The Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh have made tremendous strides towards achieving the recommendations made by the Commission of Widening Access over the past twenty years, with its Top-Up and REACH programmes, Summer Schools and pre-entry access courses for adult returners helping an increasing number of students from hard-to-reach backgrounds into higher education every year. However, what sets IntoUniversity apart from our existing WP offering is its engagement with Primary school aged children. Research shows that encouraging children to think about their future as early as possible is vital in dismantling barriers to higher education. In fact, a UCAS survey showed that knowing they want to go to university before the age of 10 will make a child two and a half times more likely to attend than a young person who decides in their teens. IntoUniversity provides consistent and long-term commitment to its young people through their childhood and teens and in doing so, tackles the mindset that higher education isn’t for them early on.

‘You might be wondering what our role involves. As Community Liaison Officers at the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, our job is to coordinate on campus as well as in centre experiences for the young people who benefit from IntoUniversity. This might be a visit to our historical university campuses, meeting our undergraduate mentors and hearing about their life as a student, or we might have one of our many talented and passionate academics visit an IntoUniversity centre and deliver an interactive workshop.

‘It is hard to believe, but we have already wrapped up the end of the first semester for the IU centres of Govan, Maryhill and Craigmillar and have just had our first FOCUS weeks of semester two. Over the last two months, we have hosted a series of Graduation Days for the Primary 6 pupils working with IntoUniversity. After a week studying their school’s chosen theme – be it Human Rights, Astronomy, Archaeology, Engineering, Climate Change, Sustainability or Creative Arts – the children attend their University Graduation on the Friday afternoon. These days are busy and fast-moving, and it is a joy to see the kids celebrate after a week of developing their skills in teamwork and communication, and most importantly, exploring their future aspirations.’

So, what does the future hold for the partnership between IntoUniversity, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow? As IntoUniversity’s Head of Operations in Scotland, Daisy Rae, reflected in November’s post, our collaboration has helped to build an amazing team of one-to-one student mentors across all three centres of Craigmillar, Govan and Maryhill. This year, we have ambitions to expand this cohort and this has already gotten off to a flying start, having attracted much interest from enthusiastic students at recent Freshers’ Weeks, Volunteer Fairs and induction sessions. With consistent commitment to our mentors and mentees, we hope to continue providing a space for young people to explore options for their future and work towards their personal goals with positive role models.

Our reflections on how the partnership has developed are positive. There is no doubt the initial start-up period had its challenges with a global pandemic and having to deliver within the confines of what was safe for everyone. However, since the world returned to some sense of normality, we are pleased to say that the partnership has gone from strength to strength. Both institutions feel it is in a good place to grow in the coming years.    


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An integral part of our partnership with the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, Community Liaison Officers, Tom and Niamh reflect on their roles, how their efforts enrich IntoUniversity’s offering for its young people and how the partnership has grown in the three years since its inception.