?Opening Up Education
One of the core values of the student movement is that educational opportunities should be widely and fairly available to those that are able to benefit from them. Students’ unions have an incredible amount to offer to support wide and fair access to higher education, and to ensure that the students who do access higher education are enabled to rise to the challenge of higher learning, stay on course and be successful in achieving their hopes and aspirations.
We are not saying that everyone should access higher education – there are many ways to be successful and access advanced learning. But we know there is a problem when the most privileged in society are still many times more likely to enter higher education than the least privileged. Progress has been made in opening up higher education but there is much more to do.
How can students' unions help?
Students’ unions have a deep understanding of the opportunities and barriers students face in their journey into and through higher education. It is essential that students’ unions are enabled to bring that expertise and the student voice into institutional policy discussions and decision-making processes.
Numerous volunteer programmes around the country show us that students can be effective ambassadors for higher education in schools and colleges and in local communities. Students and unions also have a huge role to play in creating the engagement, institutional partnerships and academic support that create the sense of belonging that supports retention and success.
Navigating this terrain can be difficult – there are many sector bodies involved and the issues are complex. Working in partnership with institutions enables students’ unions to bring their expertise and knowledge of students to a wider programme of institutional practice, adding value and ensuring a truly integrated approach to access, retention and success. Working together will enable us to achieve far greater things than either of us could achieve separately.
We are pleased to have received a wide range of contributions from partner organisations across the higher education sector who work with us and are supportive of our aim to engage students’ unions in access, retention and success policy and practice. Organisations like OFFA, Universities UK and GuildHE have an incredible amount of expertise and we benefit a great deal from their willingness to take a partnership approach in this area.
NUS Vice President (Higher Education)