Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Is Uni outreach dinner reaching the right places?

Back in early 2012, BFTF and No1 Son (who is in his final two years at secondary school) received an invitation from the University of Nottingham to attend an evening dinner, together with other children and their parents.

The aim of the evening was to give the children an introduction to University life, have students available to talk to, and to give some short talks on specific topics such as student loans, budgeting etc. The event was targeted, apparently, at families who were likely to be unfamiliar with university in the hope that barriers could be broken down and children/parents who had previously thought of uni as "not for them" might view a university education with a more open mind.

It is perhaps making clear that BFTF thinks this initiative is A GOOD THING, and every pound the universities spend breaking down barriers with families who have no history of engagement with higher education is a pound well spent.

The event was very well run, and certainly succeeded in its aim of providing useful information to the potential university-goers. Particularly memorable were the comments of one student who gave a talk on student financing and implored future students to budget better than she had so that they did not have to spend the last two weeks before Christmas "living off Noodles " because they had run out of money.

There was also a feedback form at the end of the event which asked questions such as whether the parents had been to university, what they thought of the event etc.

However, (uni educated) BFTF noted that quite a few of the other parents also appears to have gone to University and wondered whether the event was really bringing in the people it intended to (i.e. those who had no experience of higher education, so sent an email to the organisers saying:

"As I am sure you are aware, one of the best indicators of the liklihood of a child going to university is whether the childs parents did.

With this in mind, I guess that the event aimed to ensure that a high proportion of attendees were from households were the parents did not go to university. And, indeed, I noted a question to this effect during the event (on the feedback form perhaps?)

I'm very supportive of the event I attended - but would like to ensure that the money and time is being spent effectively. To this end, it is possible to let me know what percentage of the attending families had one or both parents who had attended university?"

The organisers took a few months to collate their data and then responded saying that many of the attendees didn't complete the form or did not give permission for their data to be shared. As a result there was not sufficient data to allow a meaningful analysis, addind that "We will be looking at the form for next year to see if improvements can be made."

BFTF bounced back with :
"It's a shame that the question - which seems rather an important one - can't be answered from the available data. Do you have any data from a previous year, or from similar events held elsewhere that might give some clue to the ratio of families with a graduate parent to those without?"

This didn't get a response so BFTF followed up with:
"Just wondering whether you think this years [2012/2013] questionairre will be able to answer the question "How many of the children attending this event have parents who had a Uni education". As I mentioned previously, this seems to be a pretty important question, because if the answer is "most of them", perhaps you are not spending your money in the wisest way. . ."

To which the team responded by saying that they worked closely with "The East Midlands Database" to target the appropriate families as effectively as possible, and that they would be putting forward BFTF's suggestions for consideration (which is a bit weird as BFTF hadn't actually made any specific suggestions)

A Note
Readers may wonder whether is was a bit hypocritical of BFTF to attend the event if BFTF's view is that it should only attract non-university educated families.

Well, BFTF can see your point, but the event did have some value for No1 Son and it would perhaps have been churlish to deny him that for some moral point scoring.

Another, more important, Note
The University of Nottingham does some fantastic outreach work, with many departments running their own outreach programmes. You can get a flavour of their work here and here.

And, of course, there is the awesome, amazing, annual MAYFEST, which you can read about here.

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