Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Alan Wilson's opening address:
is a great pleasure for us to be hosting this conference.
I believe that widening participation is one of the two
or three critical issues for higher education today. It
is also one of the critical issues for the country. In
both the short run and the longer run, the knowledge economy
needs more graduates. But widening participation is just
as important for the social development of the country.
Higher education is not simply an economic instrument
important though that is it provides individuals
with the basis for their life opportunities and it is
deeply civilising. I raised a laugh in a degree ceremony
speech last summer unintentionally when
I quoted some statistics which showed that graduates
no doubt with a small number of exceptions do not
commit crimes! Also, they have enjoyed living in the wonderful
multi-ethnic communities which universities represent
and so the last thing they would think of, or practice,
is any racial discrimination. They are healthier. Think
of the implications for the police, benefits and health
budgets if the graduate statistics could be reflected
in a greater proportion of our society.
is more, we know that the Governments 50% target
is achievable. I am convinced of it from my personal experience.
I am more recently convinced of it by our experience in
the University in Leeds of Ogden scholarships. As I think
is now well known, Sir Robert Ogden finances scholarships
for kids in South Yorkshire in areas such as mining
villages - to secure them at school or College and to
attract them to HE. We awarded 26 in the first year, and
we now award 40 each year. In selection, we aim as much
at need as academic ability. Many scholars tell me when
I meet them on campus here that without the scholarships,
they would not have been able to stay on at 16.
have just had the A-level results of the first 26. 24
have achieved university places spread around the
country, not just in Leeds and the scheme will
continue to support them through their university careers.
So it can be done. It is significant that a scheme run
from this University has generated students for a wide
range of universities. From our perspective, there is
real pleasure in the achievement and I would like to think
we were being altruistic on behalf of the system. What
it also shows is the diversity of the HE system, and that
this diversity is needed to serve the widening participation
aspirations of even relatively small communities such
as the South Yorkshire ones we have been supporting.
scheme also illustrates FE-HE partnerships because many
of the scholars come through Barnsley or Doncaster Colleges.
We now have the opportunity to extend these partnerships
ourselves following our merger with Bretton Hall. This
provides not only HE opportunities at Bretton itself,
but also gives us a Wakefield campus. We look forward
to working with our friends in Wakefield College and serving
the mid-Yorkshire region. And, of course, we have worked
with the FE Colleges in Leeds for many years. We have
a strategic alliance with Park Lane and work with that
College on a number of access courses. We work with the
Leeds College of Technology in areas like printing, where
we embrace both FE and HE levels between us. And we have
long-established relationships with the Leeds College
of Music and the Leeds College of Art and Design.
am delighted that the core ideas of the Ogden scholarships
scheme have been taken up by the Government, through education
maintenance awards and elements of the Excellence in Cities
programme. We will look forward to continuing to work
in partnership with the DfES, the Regional Office and
the West Yorkshire (and North Yorkshire) Learning and
is, of course, much more work to do. We can all learn
from experience and enhance and extend the schemes we
have. All this will be helped by the widening participation
funding which has been provided to universities through
HEFCE and this has certainly helped us to enhance
our own programmes. We now have a very wide range of initiatives,
including the Campus Connect and Community Action programmes
that are so brilliantly supported by our own students.
In addition, we, for example, are currently exploring
the development of foundation degrees in collaboration
with our FE College partners. We also look forward to
the Ministers review of student support funding
because that is another important component of
policy not least in seeking to treat part-time
students on the same footing as full-time ones.
look forward to the conference fuelling new ideas. Above
all, I look forward to a version of this conference in
a few years time when we can celebrate the achievement
of the 50% participation rate and when we can look
ahead to even higher targets.