Community and university access

Leading universities want to provide access to education, opportunities and facilities for everyone, whether that’s students from around the country or their local community.

Access for students

Russell Group universities are committed to ensuring that talented students from all backgrounds with the talent to succeed are given the opportunity to undertake high-quality higher education.

They spend a significant amount of time and money on widening access for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, working with local schools and colleges to raise aspirations to studying with them. In 2017/18, the 20 Russell Group universities in England alone will invest £254 million in scholarships, fee waivers, bursaries and outreach activities aimed at the most disadvantaged – with additional investments being made across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Real progress has been made the last few years in increasing the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds at our leading universities. Evidence shows that once students arrive, they flourish; on average, drop-out rates are half that of other universities and graduates on average go on to earn about 10% more over a lifetime than those from other universities.

Access matters so much to Russell Group universities and they are far from complacent or content with progress to date; there is still much further to go in solving the problem. Working together, our members launched "Advancing Access", an initiative which provides a variety of free CPD resources and online events for teachers and advisers to help them support students' progression to leading universities.

Access for the community

Universities do not only serve their students, they also provide access for their local community. They have all developed close and lasting links with local businesses, schools, public sector partners and charitable organisations.

Our members are often the economic lifeblood of their home city, directly employing thousands of people and supporting many, many more jobs across a wide range of sectors. In 2015/16, more than 20,000 start-ups and small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) benefitted from Russell Group university consultancy support and expertise, helping them realise significant productivity gains and develop new products and services.

Whether that’s through events, sports facilities or research projects, they are keen to welcome members of their local community onto campus and create links with them.

Russell Group universities also make a major contribution to the cultural, artistic, sporting and educational life of their home cities. All our members open the doors of their museums, galleries, theatres and state-of-the-art sports facilities to local residents and organisations. More than 5.5 million people attend exhibitions at museums and galleries located within our universities every year.

Perhaps less heralded but just as important is the work our universities do to help bring people together, promoting cohesion and strengthening the social fabric of local communities. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in student volunteering. It is estimated that every year, Russell Group university students give almost 1 million hours of their time and skills to voluntary work in some capacity. Our members work with an average of 200 local and national charities every year.

This activity not only benefits communities but also enhances the students’ own experience, helping them to develop into well-rounded, outward-looking citizens, as well as skilled employees ready to join the UK workforce after they graduate.

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