Marketing participation? Student ambassadors’ contribution to Widening Participation in Engineering and Medicine at two contrasting universities
Marketing participation? Studentambassadors’ contribution to WP inEngineering and Medicine at twocontrasting universitiesDr Clare Gartlandclaregartland@gmail.com
Outline of session• Introductions• Qs. What do student ambassadors do? What are they for?• The research• Questions and discussion
Background• Part of a larger ethnographic study of student ambassadors• Data collected over 2 years (2008-2009)• Study centred on 2 contrasting universities in the same geographic area Bankside – a new university Royal – an old ‘elite’ university
STEM(science, technology, engineering andmathematics, including medicine)• Engineering Strategically Important and Vulnerable Subject (SIVS) 13 percent undergraduate population were women in 2009 attracts predominantly middle class male students some ethnic minority groups underrepresented• Medicine: women now out number men on undergraduate courses some ethnic minority and lower socio economic groups significantly underrepresented
Interrogating Policy Assumptions • ‘Coordinators commend the way in which interaction with higher education students’ can ‘play a part in breaking down cultural barriers’ and the way in which ambassadors can make higher education ‘cool in the schools’(p38). (HEFCE (2005) Evaluation of Aimhigher • An evaluation of the student associates scheme (for the TDA) is also cited in this report: ‘by being close in age and experience, student associates can relate to the issues young people face’ (p38).
Multi-stranded approach • Hodkinson and Macleod (2007) suggest that a focus in research on the outcomes of learning, the ‘static products of learning’, are ‘all indicative of seeing learning as acquisition’. • David (2010) outlines the need for a nuanced understanding of teaching and learning and the ‘development of a social scientific understanding of teaching and learning in different settings and how diverse learning occurs’ (David, 2010: p6).
DATA• Observation of activities Medical days (Royal) Engineering days/ careers session (Bankside) Maths workshops Summer schools• Conversations with pupils and ambassadors during activities• Informal focus groups with pupils and ambassadors (recorded and transcribed)• Interview/ conversations with organisers
Participants• AEP and MAS activities and Maths workshops targeted pupils from south east London state schools from ‘deprived’ boroughs (according to the 2004 Multiple Deprivation Index (IMD)) with extremely low participation rates in HE• Pupils and ambassadors were ethnically diverse with the largest group represented being Black African• Ambassadors were predominantly 1st generation HE• Informal conversations/ focus groups held with: Royal: 41 pupils; 16 student ambassadors Bankside 71 pupils; 16 student ambassadors
Marketing discoursesAimhigher• marketing ain’t in the list and neither is anything like it; what you’re marketing is the idea of progression in higher education into careers (Aimhigher coordinator)• in the training, what ambassadors are often told is, which T-shirt are you wearing; if it’s an Aimhigher one, you’re talking about progression; if it’s a Bankside one you’re at a Bankside open day and you’re talking about courses at Bankside and you need to know about courses at Bankside … Aimhigher is different … because it’s offering knowledge of a pathway, not knowledge of a specific; the train starts here and stops at your destination which is Royal or Bankside or … or …. (Aimhigher coordinator)
HEIs – WP units• Initially I was very clear I was working for Aimhigher – I would say to student ambassadors ‘don’t talk about Bankside’. I’ve now moved to a position where I think they should talk about what Bankside offer…they are proud of their own university and particularly if they are subject specific students on a vocational project, they should be able to talk about their course and what they do but I wouldn’t tell them to promote Bankside (outreach manager, Bankside)• ‘internally we are always told to do recruitment’ … ‘are we recruiting?’ (WP manager, Royal)
Royal • Slowly over time the internal pressures mount – there is a benchmark and you are asked what you are doing to meet it? You get – it’s lovely you’re doing charity work but… (WP manager, Royal) • The problem is that type of student at Bankside they recruit locally from London so it works together but Royal’s recruitment is national – they go to Newcastle to get the best students…but recruitment teams from Royal would never go to these schools (WP manager)
Bankside • …to create a group of students who, in terms of their skills, behaviour and experience, embody the most successful graduates of Bankside (outreach manager, Bankside) • …super student employees…a core of experienced, well trained students who we can rely on to train others, represent the university at high profile events and to the media and lead on project work • They need to be professional – corporate …they are representing the institution they are working for (head of recruitment, Bankside)
Student ambassadors• Than: I applied, I did some Open Days when I was a student ambassador – like last year and then I filled in an application and became a student ambassador and they put me on the Widening Participation mailing list as well so to be honest, I don’t know the difference between them ‘cause all I do is, I get e-mails from Widening Participation, Royal – I just say, yes, no; they say training days, I say, can I do it – if I can do it I do it – if I don’t ….so I wouldn’t really know what was what to be honest (Royal: G&T SS)• Munira: Because you’re trained for the one job, not trained to go, well, if this is a Royal event this is how you behave and if it’s an Aspire event this is how you behave Casey: ‘Cause we’re still representing Royal in one way or another (G&T SS)
• Candice: It’s the only uni in the UK with a McDonalds on campus Abiola: I want to go to this university – there’s a McDonalds here Candice: Yeah this uni is top! University is a lot of work but I think it’s a really good experience and I’d encourage as many people as I can to have that experience (MD)• Gill: Any opportunity we tell them about uni – in a subtle way like ‘you need a degree for everything!’ – we’re selling that (EC)
Pupils• Clare: And do you know where you want to do it, by the way? Vanessa: I don’t know, I didn’t really know about any universities until I came to this one. I like this one; it is really good Lola: Yeah it is Vanessa: They’ve sold it to us … Clare: And when you said, they sold it to you – how? Vanessa: Well, the things they said about Queens and they just made it seem really good here Lola: And they kept saying, we’re not trying to sell it to you Vanessa: Yeah, but they made a pretty good job of selling it (laughs) Yeah just emphasising how they can still get the grades and still become what they want while also having a social life and all the clubs we can join (G&T SS)
• Sarah: engineering is another word for making things Ayisha: I want to become an engineer now Meena: only if it involves science Aiysha: yes for the rest of my life (TT)
• Martin: They just try to make it like – whereas before you’d be like, wow it’s going to be really hard and they are like, just take it slowly, do your work as it comes and you have to work hard but it will be fun. They’ve highlighted the positives - they haven’t really told us any of the negative stuff• Fabienne: the supervisors didn’t really help me- it’s 3 years till I go to university – I don’t really want to know – I’m not bothered. I already know what you have to do – I knew the stuff that you can do – stuff you can gain from it (EC)
Professionalism and employability • We need to raise the bar…a more rigorous recruitment process – professional training to raise their expectations about what they will be doing and CPD, self assessment and a probationary period so that they make more effort in passing and we should get regular feedback from customers (outreach manager) • Wendy: working for the AEP is like customer services – you treat the children with respect so that they’re nice back to you (STEM day)
Charity and deficit • Jessica: I’m a bog standard state student – I got mediocre GCSEs but I set myself high goals for A levels. Money doesn’t have to put you off – my mum works in an office and my dad’s a gardener’ • Jamila: I set myself a target – Royal – I come from an underprivileged area
• Chanelle: Yes, you don’t have to come from an upper class background or a grammar school to get to university. You can come from where they are coming from; there’s no real boundaries apart from your actual expectations in your head, I think. It’s like, if you think you won’t be able to make it then that’s going to limit you in where you’re going. If you think I can do this, I can achieve what I want to achieve then that will give you inspiration to go and if there is someone telling you, you know I came from where you come from; I came from a lower privileged background and I’m here; it inspires them (MD)
The current position• Marketisation of HE• Pupils as consumers• Aimhigher funding and HEFCE funding for WP projects withdrawn• Qs Can student ambassadors play a part in genuinely increasing equality and diversity in HE?