Widening participation in higher education in East Anglia

From January 2017, East Anglia’s five Higher Education Institutions, working in close partnership with the region’s Further Education Colleges and other stakeholders, will start to deliver a major Government-funded collaborative outreach programme, the Network for East Anglian Collaborative Outreach (neaco).

neaco brings together Anglia Ruskin University, Norwich University of the Arts, University of East Anglia, University of Suffolk, and the University of Cambridge as Consortium Partners, with Cambridge acting as lead partner.

NEACO is part of the national Network for Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP), which aims to:

  • Double the proportion of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in Higher Education (HE) by 2020;
  • Increase by 20 percent the number of students in HE from ethnic minority groups;
  • Address the under-representation of young men from disadvantaged backgrounds in HE

The project launches in January 2017 and runs until December 2018, with the possibility of a further two years of funding to take the project to the end of 2020. The East Anglia funding allocation is approximately £9 million for the first two years of the project.

The universities will work closely with FE Colleges offering HE provision in the region, as well as dozens of target schools, colleges and other stakeholders. Advisory Groups in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are being set up to ensure a wide range of experience can feed into the project. 

The programme will work closely with schools and colleges in the region to identify and support students in Years 9-13 from disadvantaged areas (HEFCE GAP wards). The network will deliver a range of targeted outreach activities to raise aspirations, explain the full range of Higher Education options available to students, and provide crucial advice about how to make successful applications.

Tom Levinson, Head of Widening Participation at the University of Cambridge and interim NEACO Project Manager, said: “This programme provides an unprecedented opportunity to widen participation to Higher Education and improve social mobility in East Anglia. The funding which the Government has allocated to East Anglia recognises the fact that we have thousands of bright young people in the region with huge potential, and the ability to take their education further. “Cambridge is delighted to be leading a collaborative partnership which aims to show the region’s young people the array of HE options available to them as well as providing practical support to help them achieve their goals. Our region offers world-class courses taught in leading centres of research, and vocational courses with excellent links to business and the professions. The Network brings together a huge amount of expertise and experience and we will be making the very most of this opportunity for the region.”

Tim Greenacre, Registrar and Secretary at the University of Suffolk, said: “The University of Suffolk is delighted to be a member of the neaco consortium and contributing to widening participation in the region. A central part of the University of Suffolk mission is to raise HE participation and widen participation and this project will complement and enhance our existing widening participation activity.” 

Dr Trevor Bolton, Pro Vice Chancellor for Partnerships at Anglia Ruskin University: "We are delighted to be working with regional partners to widen participation in higher education. At Anglia Ruskin we firmly believe we should make higher education opportunities available to as many people as possible - raising the education and skills levels of our region and nation is vital to our prosperity."

Charlotte Wheatland, Assistant Head of Outreach at The University of East Anglia said: “We look forward to strengthening our already strong outreach work with schools and colleges in Norfolk through the neaco consortium.”

Jerry White, Deputy Principal, City College Norwich said: "On behalf of the New Anglia Colleges Group (NACG), City College Norwich is keen to support this project as we want to see young people from disadvantaged backgrounds given the same chances as anyone else to go on to Higher Education and benefit from the life-changing opportunities this brings.

"The NACG colleges can and do play a key role in supporting the widening participation agenda.  As well as having higher proportions of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds studying with colleges, we are also the major providers of Higher Education for students from our local communities in Norfolk and Suffolk.  We are looking forward to working with neaco to develop new ways to overcome barriers and open up opportunities to young people from some of our most disadvantaged communities."