Stoke on Trent College is committed to widening participation and values the range of experience and diversity of its Higher Education students.

This is reflected in both the College’s Mission and its Values.

The College Mission states that ‘the purpose of Stoke on Trent College is to provide young people and adults with the technical and personal skills they need to gain employment, to progress their careers and so to contribute to the City’s economic, social and cultural development. Our successful students will help to create a flourishing city.’

One of the ways in which this Mission will be accomplished is by ‘celebrating the rich diversity of our learners and the wider community by fostering a culture of inclusion, respectfulness and acceptance of difference across the college, where all students and staff feel highly valued and safe.’

Similarly, the College’s Values include that of ‘ensuring opportunities for all – by widening participation and access.’

Policies with particular relevance to higher education, such as the College’s Admissions policy, bear out this value, so that an ethos of providing equality of opportunity for everyone seeking to study with the College is maintained right through the organisation in the way that we work.

In addition to the college-wide Mission, Values and Admissions Policy, there is a specific Higher Education Strategy which embodies the value of ensuring opportunities for all and is summarised by the 3 key principles below:

 

  1. Wider and fairer access to HE
  • Providing clear progression routes to higher education for vocational students within the College
  • Stimulating demand from new students, including those already in work
  • Providing an affordable HE programme
  • Increasing choice of HE routes

 

  1. Meeting the Skills Needs of the Region
  • Meeting customer and stakeholder needs
  • Working in collaboration with partners and employers

 

  1. Improving student choice and experience of higher education
  • Enabling students to access HE locally
  • Encouraging access to HE

 

The context for widening participation

It is important that Stoke on Trent College has widening participation and access as a key element of its mission and values and as a focus within its HE strategy, as the local sub-region has a particular need for greater levels of progression into higher education, by both young people and adults.

Local demographics show that Stoke-on-Trent has a lower proportion of residents in professional occupations such as managers, directors and senior officers when compared regionally and nationally. The College is committed to improving employment prospects of the local community and has a key focus on widening participation to address shortages in these key occupational groups.

Education attainment at Level 4 and above is also significantly lower than in the national population, with 30% of individuals holding Level 4+ qualifications compared to 39% nationally. Progression of young people to higher education across Staffordshire is strong, but by contrast several wards in Stoke-on-Trent fall into the lowest 20% nationally.

With this context of historically lower HE participation and employment achievement, the College is committed to continuing to delivery higher education and to enhance the opportunities for the development of higher level skills within the city and its surrounding areas. HE provision has been developed to provide students with a supportive learning environment that enables them to reach their potential.

What this means in practice is that we aim to:

  • Provide opportunities for seamless progression for students who might otherwise not be able to successfully access higher education due to a range of barriers including social and emotional, cost and financial implications or lack of support.
  • Raise aspirations by providing opportunities for students to study higher education in a learning environment that is supportive and inclusive.
  • Provide students with a range of educational opportunities which enables them to develop the knowledge, behaviour and skills required to progress to higher level skilled employment.
  • Provide students with an opportunity to study from Level 3 to Level 7.
  • Develop relationships with local and regional businesses with the purpose of introducing Higher Apprenticeship pathways in order to support skills shortages.

Examples of how this strategy is being implemented at Stoke on Trent College include the following:

  • The College maintains low cost entry points to higher education so that the local community and employers have access to affordable higher education.
  • The College provides opportunities for students to enter higher education with lower tariff point scores than would normally gain them access to university.
  • The College provides information and promotes its Higher Education opportunities to potential students in the workplace, through open events, through progression talks to its internal student population, in adult learning publications, on the College website and in other forms of social media – aiming to reach the widest audience by the use of many different media.
  • The College offers students structured study skills support, tutorial support and smaller group sizes in order to create a more personalised approach to learning.
  • The College has developed its work with employers to actively engage with their workforce in the Stoke-on-Trent area and beyond and promote its Higher Education provision. This has enabled employees to have access routes to Higher Education and develop skills to enable career progression within the company.
  • The College delivers progression and higher education talks to its Level 3 learners – both 16-18 and adults and actively provides support for UCAS applications and accessing financial information through its Careers Team.
  • The College participates in activities with the NCOP Higher Horizons programme to encourage learners to become more aspirational regarding progression to higher education, whether internally or externally.
  • Applications are welcomed from all students irrespective of background. The College aims to place applicants on appropriate courses and provides appropriate support to enable students to succeed.
  • The College operates a fair admissions policy with clear entry criteria for its programmes/ courses.
  • The College ensures that students are not discriminated against during the admissions process or during their time at the College. Where students do not meet the entry criteria, the College supports the learner in identifying a suitable alternative programme of study that will enable access to Higher Education in the future.
  • The College has invested in the infrastructure to support higher education including learning environments, resources, teaching, learning and assessment processes. The Science and Technology Centre was developed in 2011 as part of a collaborative agreement with Staffordshire University, the College and the 6th Form College. This provides students of all backgrounds with access to specialist facilities of the highest standard, state of the art laboratories and exposure to HE learning environments.
  • To aid retention, and ensure students have a smooth transition into Higher Education, the College operates a dedicated HE induction programme which introduces students to aspects such as academic regulations, college and university resources (some available at Staffordshire University), welfare support, and gives the opportunity to identify support required.
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