The Manchester Access Programme (MAP)

The Manchester Access Programme (MAP) is The University of Manchester’s (TUM) social mobility programme for Y12/13 students in Greater Manchester. It is highly targeted at talented post-16 learners from backgrounds currently under-represented in higher education and aims to support them into TUM and other research-intensive universities, thereby contributing to enhanced long-term employment prospects and social mobility.

Objectives of the Intervention

The Manchester Access Programme (MAP) is The University of Manchester’s flagship social mobility programme for Y12/13 students in Greater Manchester. It is highly targeted at talented post-16 learners from less advantaged backgrounds and aims to support them into The University of Manchester and other research-intensive universities, thereby contributing to enhanced long-term employment prospects and social mobility.

In total, over 1000 people have completed the programme, with 886 MAP students successfully entering the University as undergraduate students. For the 2014 cohort, the programme had over 1000 applications, with the final number of students enrolled on the programme coming to 563.

MAP is just one of a wide array of activities and initiatives delivered by The University of Manchester that aim to widen access to Higher Education. This includes activities with primary-aged students, those in secondary schools, and adult learners who wish to return to education.

Origins and rationale of this initiative

The Widening Participation and Outreach team at The University of Manchester created MAP in 2006. It has run each year since, getting significantly larger in the process.

Widening participation, and MAP, is an institutional priority of the University. The University has 3 key goals outlined in its vision for 2020, of which MAP contributes to two of them: to provide an outstanding learning and student experience, and to be socially responsible.

MAP helps to recruit the best students possible for the university, regardless of their background, and therefore improves the learning and student experience for all.

Additionally, MAP helps to remove some of the hurdles traditionally faced by students from certain backgrounds in progressing to university, making the university more accessible. A key part of the university being socially responsible.

Target groups intended as beneficiaries of this initiative

The target group is talented students living or studying in Greater Manchester from backgrounds currently under-represented in higher education, particularly research-intensive universities.

Therefore, to be eligible for the programme, students must meet various criteria:

  • 8 GCSEs (or equivalent) at A*-C including English Language and Maths with 5 GCSEs (or equivalent) at B or above.
  • To have attended state schools while studying for their level 2 (GCSE or equivalent) and level 3 (A-Level or equivalent) qualifications.
  • No parental history of higher education.
  • To live, or attend school, in the Greater Manchester area.

The programme prioritises applications that also meet the following criteria:

  • Received free school meals (an indicator of economic deprivation).
  • Receive 16-19 bursary (an indicator of economic deprivation).
  • Who were ever in Local Authority Care.
  • Their schools for level 2 and level 3 performed below the national average.

The programme targets groups that are less likely to proceed to higher education. MAP requires that students go to a state school and don’t have a parental history of higher education. In addition to this, MAP examined whether the student received free school meals, are in receipt of the 16-19 bursary, and if they have ever been in local authority care. This is because these students are traditionally less likely to proceed to university.

MAP recruits students who have the talent to succeed at The University of Manchester, and uses their GCSE grades (or equivalent) to measure this. Additionally, MAP looks at the performance of the school they are currently attending, and the school they undertook their GCSEs (or equivalent). If this is below the national average, MAP prioritises their application as it suggests a higher level of academic potential.

The programme is for the students in the Greater Manchester area and they therefore ask that students either live, or study in the area. This is in order that the University will benefit the local community, but is also practical as there are a number of activities that the students have to attend which all take place at the University’s campus.

Political and socio-economic factors that you believe have been important enablers for your initiative

The programme and its ethos have a lot of political support: both from the University and from the government. MAP is embedded into the University’s 2020 vision and contributes to it meeting two of its three main goals: to deliver an outstanding learning and student experience and to be socially responsible.

The programme also aligns with the national political agenda of widening participation. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) distributes public money for higher education to universities. One of their main objectives is to ensure that students from under-represented groups can successfully participate in higher educations.

The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) is an independent public body that helps to safeguard and promote fair access to higher education. It does this by monitoring and approving the ‘access agreements’ of universities wanting to charge higher fees (such as The University of Manchester). MAP is a central component of the University’s access agreement that is examined by OFFA each year. MAP contributes to the University’s commitment to fair access outlined in its access agreement.

More widely MAP fits in to the government’s commitment to social mobility, which is the key goal of its social policy.

The political support for MAP has contributed to its success.

Overall Programme design and the methods and tools used to reach the goals

The two main goal of the programme are:

  • To support students through the application process to university.
  • To prepare them with the skills needed to be university students.

There is a wide range of activities carried out as part of MAP: some of which are compulsory and some are optional. All the activities help the programme to meet its principle objectives (as outlined below). On average the programme takes 55 hours to complete, involving some personal learning time.

1.  To support students through the application process to university.

  • Students receive 40 UCAS points towards their offer at The University of Manchester (Instead of an offer of AAA, it’d be ABB).
  • Decision Manchester: MAP students are given specialist advice and guidance from Admissions Tutors. Students can find out if they would be accepted on to a course at the University before they apply.
  • Guidance Interviews (compulsory): one to one meetings with members of the University’s staff in which the students’ options are discussed.
  • Choosing a University Course: a workshop on what to consider when choosing a course and university.
  • Student Finance: an introduction to Student Finance and the financial support available to students.
  • Personal Statement workshops: these provide students with a framework and structure of a good personal statement.
  • Personal Statement drop-ins: for students to get feedback on their own personal statement.
  • Interview workshops: these help students prepare for interviews.
  • Discover Days: to help students find out more about courses they are not already studying.

2.  To prepare them with the skills needed to be university students.

  • Academic Assignment (compulsory): a 1500 word essay in a subject of their choice, supported by a member of the University’s teaching staff.
  • University Life Conference (compulsory): a two-day event with optional overnight stay at the University’s halls of residence. In small groups the students prepare a presentation which they deliver to their peers at the end of the conference.
  • Academic Writing and Revision Skills Workshop (compulsory): this workshop teaches the students how to construct a university-standard essay, how to research and reference and suggests different revision techniques that they can use for their level 3 studies.
  • Library drop-ins: to familiarise students with the library. This helps them make the most of the facilities available for writing their Academic Assignment.
  • Summer Lectures: lectures given by the University’s Academics on various topics.
  • University’s cultural assets workshops: the Manchester Museum, the Whitworth Art Gallery and Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre run workshops for our students.
  • Subject Specific Events: events for students in specific subject areas.

Many of the events developing the skills needed to be university students also help with their application. It allows students to show that they would be a successful undergraduate student as they have already started to develop many of the skills required.

Furthermore, when MAP students become undergraduates at the University they receive an Opportunity Manchester Scholarship. The scholarship is £1,000 and is for each year of their undergraduate studies. This is in addition to the financial support already offered by the University and the government.

Describe if the project ensured its sustainability

The project is sustainable for a number of reasons.

  • The programme has become an embedded part of the University. The programme has support from the senior management of the University; it is referred to in the University’s 2020 vision, and is seen as an important tool to help the University reach its main goals.
  • Secondly, its success has contributed the project’s sustainability. In total, 886 MAP students have been successful in gaining a place at the University. This has contributed hugely to creating a more diverse student body in the University.

The programme has been replicated elsewhere. It influenced The University of Liverpool’s Student Scholars programme: a programme with similar entrance requirements and benefits to MAP. Realising Opportunities is a national scheme with 15 partner universities, of which the University was a founding partner. Realising Opportunities shares a similar format to the Manchester Access Programme and The University of Manchester has contributed to its development alongside the other partner universities.

Resources used in the initiative

Staff resource (7 members of the MAP team)

  • Student Recruitment and Widening Participation Manager 0.25 time per week
  • MAP Manager 0.8 time per week
  • 2 x MAP Coordinator – full time
  • 1 x MAP Clerical Assistant– full time
  • 1x MAP Graduate Intern – full time

120 Academic Tutors (academics and PhD students at Manchester)
70 Student Ambassadors (undergraduate students)

Workshop materials – pens, paper, calendar of activities.

What was the budget for the initiative?
£100k per year

How much was funded and from which sources?
Funded by HEFCE and the University’s widening participation budget.

How much of financial contribution (including staff costs) came from your institution?

Did the intervention reach its objectives?

The quantitative and qualitative evidence suggests that MAP supports the progression of students under-represented in higher education to the University of Manchester, and also gives students the skills to succeed at university when they arrive. This shows the success of the programme.

The quantitative evidence below shows the number of students who have progressed from MAP to the University, and how MAP has contributed to these students’ progression.

  • To date, 886 MAP students have been successful in getting a place at the University of Manchester, with many other MAP students progressing to other research-intensive universities including Oxford, Cambridge and UCL.
  • Around one third of MAP applicants to Medicine at Manchester would not have been invited to interview if they had not made improvements to their application based on the advice and recommendations they receive from our admissions staff.
  • Around half of the MAP students who progress to Manchester need some or all of the differential 40 UCAS points lower offer they gain as part of the Programme. MAP students all receive an offer of 40 UCAS points (two A-level grades) below the standard offer for a course at Manchester.
  • Students who complete MAP are over twice as likely to be accepted onto a course at Manchester compared to non-MAP applicants from their colleges

Quantitative and qualitative evidence also suggests the programme is successful in achieving its objective of preparing students for university study.

  • Following entry to the University, MAP students achieve largely the same Good Honours degree outcomes (First Class and Upper Second Class) as the overall student population at Manchester.

Below are several comments from students who have completed MAP, showing how the programme helped them develop skills which were needed for university.

Arooj Anwar, 2nd year English Literature student: ‘The academic assignment was one of the most valuable things I took part in. We learnt how to reference, a vital skill at university. It helped me feel more comfortable when I came to University’.

Sherifa Yasmin, 2nd year Law student: ‘MAP supported me academically by providing research and writing skills workshops. It eased the transition between college and university’.

Aisha Valli, 3rd year Linguistics and Sociology student: ‘MAP gave me the support and guidance needed in order to make the transition from college to university and it continues to be a huge part of my university experience’.

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