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Higher education engagement with schools and colleges: partnership development

The National Council for Educational Excellence (NCEE) was established by Gordon Brown, Prime Minister, in June 2007 to act as a sounding board about strategy and measures to deliver a world-class education system for children and young people up to the age of 19, with the support of education, business and the voluntary sector.

The Council asked universities to explore the part that they can play in supporting the development of educational excellence. Working with Universities UK, Professor Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter and a member of the Council, presented a report in November 2007, summarising the many ways in which universities engage with and support schools and colleges, based on the responses to a survey of all vice-chancellors in England. One of the recommendations in the report was that Universities UK should build on the evidence provided in the survey responses to progress this agenda.

In response, Universities UK has produced this further report with support from Action on Access, the national coordination team for widening participation, which provides a typology of activities in this area, mapping out thematically the range of activities, links and interventions between schools, colleges and higher education institutions with examples of practice and reference to what we have been told works well. Attention is drawn to the familiar outreach activities that have been developed over a number of years, as well as to more recent innovative activity such as the establishment of learner progression frameworks and the delivery of university models in schools and colleges. In addition, the report draws attention to the outcomes of a further survey undertaken by Universities UK on the continuing professional development opportunities provided by universities, with the aim of raising attainment in schools and colleges. The responses illustrate the range of continuing professional development opportunities available to schoolteachers, trainers and lecturers and provide examples of tailored programmes that support the aim of raising attainment in schools and colleges. This agenda is also supported by the research undertaken by many university education departments on a number of topics, such as strategies for including reluctant learners and supporting headteachers in areas of low achievement.

It is clear from the survey of the links provided by higher education institutions that partnerships are only successful where both parties gain from working closely together. This will be important in ensuring a commitment across all parts of the education sector, which will be vital in ensuring delivery.

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