The past two months have been a bit of a whirlwind. From graduating, having handover training to organising Camspire, an access residential scheme. . So I thought it was about time I introduce myself and explain my priorities for the year.
My role as Access and Funding Officer includes a wide variety of responsibilities. On a weekly basis I sit on committees with members of university staff discussing matters such as the design of the Transition Year, an access programme for those who have suffered some form of educational disadvantage. On these committees it is my job to provide a critical student perspective and hold the university to account on access commitments they make. But my role goes far beyond committee discussions. It also includes organising access residentials such as the Shadowing Scheme, and delivering talks to potential prospective students from underrepresented groups. Additionally, I scrutinise university practice – at the moment I am reviewing the guidance on supporting care leavers tutors are given. Finally, part of my job is to urge the university to take seriously directions and issues related to access that are not on their agenda at all.
I ran for the role because I know first-hand how impactful access work has the potential to be. I believe access can have an even bigger impact when we recognise it as an inherently political mission. Whilst direct interactions with potential applicants such as college tours do have a meaningful effect, access is so much more than just that. Access is about confrontingan unpleasant reality. A reality in which we recognise that on a systematic level certain groups of students are privileged whilst others consistently face obstacles throughout their educational journey. Access seeks to redress these inequalities and work to ensure that admissions at Cambridge does not compound them further.
So what are my plans?
It’s really crucial that I carry on with the legacy my predecessor left behind by continuing the push towards more targeted access work. Whilst there is use in speaking of shocking dichotomies like the state vs independent to grab attention, effective access in practice must take a nuanced approach. One of my priorities for this year includes implementing further access initiatives focussed on specific groups. That’s why I will be working on developing access initiatives for young people in care.
I believe narratives around access too often focus solely on simply ‘raising aspirations’. It’s really important that we don’t reduce access to just this. Another of my plans this year is to review the current unconscious bias training procedure given to admissions tutors.
Another objective I have is to evaluate and improve the support offered to care leaver and estranged students once they arrive at Cambridge. Effective access should not just be concerned with getting people in, but how they get on once they are here. Part of this meansI have been reviewing where the university are at in terms of their Care Leaver Covenant and their Stand Alone Pledge.
There are many more projects I intend to work on, including but not limited to, reviewing how study skills programmes benefit students from widening participation backgrounds and analysing the relationship between widening participation flags and outcomes at Cambridge. I am also keen to work with campaigns and support others in their access related projects however I can.
If you’d like to get involved send me a message on Facebook or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org