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Widening access matters: Strathclyde and Together Energy partnership

By Stephanie McKendry - Posted on 25 August 2021

Together Energy is providing 100 new internships for widening access and care-experienced students at Strathclyde - here, Stephanie McKendry explains why widening access and providing internships makes a difference.

Why widening access matters

As a socially progressive institution, the University of Strathclyde is committed to providing the life changing opportunities afforded by higher education to everyone who can benefit from it, no matter their background. Access to university remains socially stratified, however. First year degree entrants are almost twice as likely to come from the 20% least deprived neighbourhoods in Scotland as the most deprived communities. More than half of all HE students in Scotland come from the top two occupational groups within the Socio-Economic Classification (Commissioner for Fair Access, 2021).

What is worse, those students from disadvantaged or under-represented groups who make it into university, can often to do less well than their more affluent peers. Analysis by the Commissioner for Fair Access in 2018 found that students from disadvantaged neighbourhoods were less likely to be retained during their studies than their peers, less likely to remain for an honours year and less likely to attain a ‘good degree’ of 2:1 or higher. Even when accounting for differences in subject, institution and degree outcome, graduates from disadvantaged neighbourhoods were less likely than other students to obtain a professional level occupation.

The reasons for these differential outcomes are complex, and many are structural. Whilst students from more disadvantaged backgrounds have the same potential as others, caring responsibilities, financial concerns and a lack of networks or social capital can affect their opportunities.

Strathclyde’s approach to widening access

A commitment to widening access is within Strathclyde’s DNA – indeed it was founded in 1796 as ‘a place of useful learning’ open to all regardless of gender, religion or socio-economic status. Our outreach programmes and contextual approach to admissions means we admit high numbers of students from under-represented groups, but our strategy focuses on the entire learner journey. We provide support so that students can succeed in their studies and take advantage of the value-added opportunities that higher education can provide. Activities include STAR Scholarships to provide financial support, mentoring programmes for care experienced learners and those from asylum seeker backgrounds, and fully funded short-term opportunities to destinations such as Madrid and LA for those with caring responsibilities.

Together Energy Internships

In 2020/21, the University partnered with Together Energy to provide paid internships for students from disadvantaged neighbourhoods and those with care experience. The idea was to provide meaningful employment to students in a format that fitted around their studies and at a time when many were losing their jobs in hospitality as a result of the pandemic. As Paul Richards, Chief Executive Officer of Together Energy, said at the time: “Working in partnership with the University of Strathclyde has been a game changer for Together Energy. This partnership has allowed us to discover a talent pool of outstanding quality who can support us in achieving our business aims in the short and long term, alongside the students being able to continue with their higher education despite a difficult climate. It really is a winning formula for all, and I hope this project excites other employers too."

83 students were employed in the first year and another 100 will be recruited this Autumn. In addition, the students can undertake a credit-bearing module at Strathclyde to complement their internship. The programme focuses on sustainable development and employability skills with students writing a case study based on Together Energy.

Future Plans

The Strathclyde Together Energy partnership has been hugely successful in supporting our widening access students. They have gained meaningful employment and developed essential employability skills while contributing to a company with an ethical recruitment process. The model works and we are keen to expand it to other employers.

Contact details

 Undergraduate admissions
 +44 (0)141 548 4114

 Postgraduate admissions
 +44(0)141 553 6118 / 6119


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