Funding to help students overcome barriers

New College Durham has been awarded funding from the Higher Education Funding Council in England (HEFCE), as part of a national £7.5 million initiative to help students overcome barriers to academic success. 

The college, which is lead college in a collaboration with Sunderland College and Darlington College, has been awarded £300,000 to support a two-year project for the provision of higher education academic support. 

The collaboration is one of 17 projects nationally, involving 64 higher education providers, to receive funding from HEFCE’s Catalyst Fund to address differences in student outcomes.  Research by HEFCE exposed gaps in the higher education outcomes between different student groups and their ‘Addressing barriers to student success’ programme aims to tackle the causes of these differences. 

The projects will particularly benefit those student groups affected by differential outcomes, highlighted in previous HEFCE research, including black and minority ethnic students, students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, disabled students (including those with mental health issues and specific learning difficulties), mature students and part-time students. 

Lesley Bryden, Head of HE Quality and Enhancements at New College Durham, said:

“We are delighted that in partnership with Sunderland College and Darlington College, we have been successful in being awarded £300,000 from HEFCE to be part of this innovative project. Ours was the only successful bid by an all-college partnership.” 

Explaining more about the project, Lesley said:

“This project aims to improve outcomes for higher education learners within further education colleges by making improvements to their learning, boosting engagement with course content, enhancing the learning experience and raising confidence and resilience.

“It is specifically focused on students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, and those with learning difficulties or mental health issues, and will support them in achieving their full potential.”

The project will provide specific academic support to learners via a dedicated HE Academic Support Tutor. This support will include one-to-one support sessions, group tutorials and access to a wide range of IT-based learning resources.   It will also provide an opportunity for the college partners to work together to scale up the current academic support service to improve retention, achievement, attainment and progression rates for higher education students. 

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