by mikebell on 1 March, 2017
A ‘disappointingly’ low number of Weston students are applying to go to university, with new figures showing the town has one of the smallest application rates in the country.
Just 27.7 per cent of 18-year-old students in Weston applied for university last year, which is the lowest level since 2013.
However, the picture in the whole of North Somerset is different, with close to 45 per cent of students applying around the district – higher than the national average of 32 per cent.
James Wilmot, head of careers at Priory Community School in Worle says illustrating the range of options to students is key to increasing this number.
He said: “It is not about the pupils in Weston’s ability – that should not be called into question.
“The applications to university in Weston are nationally low but with University Centre Weston (UCW) and Priory making an effort to raise aspirations, we will be on the up.
“Many local schools either have part-time careers staff, careers duties in a split role or careers staff are brought in via other organisations.
“We need strong careers advice in schools. They have these amazing opportunities and choices and it is then down to the person whether they take it or not. Communication with parents is also important.”
Back in November 2015, UCW was officially awarded university centre status, offering a host of degree-level courses.
Central ward councillor Mike Bell believes this journey to becoming a university town will have a positive impact on young people’s aspirations.
He said: “These figures are disappointing but there are lots of local positives.
“Increasingly, local students have the option of studying a range of higher education with Weston College. However, the application rate is still relatively low and we do need to ask what factors are contributing to this.
“Historically, we have had under-performance at secondary school level, and lower numbers consequently studying A-levels or other access-level courses. But there will also be issues of social mobility, affordability and aspiration.
“I do think education in Weston is changing and for the better.”
UCW will soon teach degree courses in the town’s historic Winter Gardens, when the college’s development of a law and professional services academy is completed in September.
Assistant director Sadie Skellon said: “UCW is committed to increasing the number of teenagers from Weston who progress to higher education.
“UCW is also contributing to the National Collaborative Outreach Programme through being a partner in the Wessex Inspiration Network – which is focused on reaching young people in Weston, engaging with them and their families, and making sure they know about the many benefits of pursuing higher education.”
And Dr Paul Phillips, principal and chief executive of Weston College, told the Mercury the future is bright for students attending the college and university centre.
He said: “Nationally, only five percent of higher education students choose to study within 20 miles of their home, but in Weston this figure is a lot higher.
“Encouraging local people to study higher education through University Centre Weston is one of our priorities.”Leave a comment