City uni leads project to help students excel

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A NEW scheme at the University of Portsmouth aims to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds excel.

And now, the project, run by dean of science at the university Professor Sherria Hoskins, has been awarded £500,000 by Hefce, the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

She and Dr Jessica Gagnon, senior research fellow at the school of education and childhood studies, will lead the project with 5,200 university students and 800 university staff who work with them at five universities.

The students who will benefit are from the groups least likely to apply to university and, if they do attend, most likely to drop out, or not perform well academically, despite entering with excellent qualifications.

The main aim of the project is to try and close the attainment gap in black and minority ethnic groups and those from the working class.

Prof Hoskins said: ‘This is the first time a group of UK universities have joined forces to trial a project which has the potential to eradicate the impact of stereotype threat on performance in university students.

‘I’m delighted to have won funding.

‘It underlines the urgent need to find out why some people who are more than capable intellectually of studying at university so often fail to complete their courses, or do so with lower grades.

‘We expect the results will help bring about a sea change for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who have the potential to study and do extremely well at university.’

The project will run from this September at student and staff workshops at the University of Portsmouth, University of the Arts, London, Canterbury Christ Church University, the University of Brighton, and the University of Winchester.

Experts at all five universities will work with students and their teachers on changing mindsets, bias reduction and habit breaking.

The first results of the two-year study are expected in June 2018.