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Faith Butt
Faith Butt

Press Release - 19 January 2005

Few young people in Swindon going to university, says report

The University of Bath in Swindon has pledged to continue its vital work in encouraging young people to go into higher education, following a report which says the town is still lagging behind.

Figures from the Higher Education Funding Council for England show that only around 23 per cent of 18 and 19-year-olds from Swindon went to universities and other higher education colleges in the years 1994-2000.

This compares to the national average of 30 per cent and is worse than the rest of the West Country, apart from areas of Bristol, Plymouth and South Dorset.

The University of Bath in Swindon believes that the town has to have a skilled local workforce if its businesses are to compete successfully in the rapidly changing 21st century market.

If the University’s plans for a new campus are successful, it will be an enormous boost to the town’s ability to train local people and carry out important research. The new campus would create 2,000 new jobs, 600 of them academic posts, and bring enormous benefits to local industry.

Many young people in Swindon would attend a local university, as this would allow them to save money by living at home. The city of Bath itself has a rate of 38 per cent of its young people going into higher education, some of them attending the University of Bath.

The University is already encouraging many young people to go to university by setting up Widening Participation schemes in the area. In the past four years it has increased the work it has done in schools and neighbourhoods that have a low proportion of young people going into higher education.

It has held several summer schools for school pupils who have no family tradition of going to higher education, where they can learn about university life; a mentoring scheme has been established where university students give help and support to Year 10 pupils in five schools; and various special days are held at the Bath and Swindon campuses that extend the curriculum for Swindon pupils.

John Cullum, chair of the Wiltshire and Swindon Economic Partnership, said: “It really is vital for the region’s economy to make sure that our young people have the essential new skills needed for 21st century working life. I welcome the University’s endeavours to encourage a wide range of youngsters to consider higher education as an option, and hope that we will see the percentage of Swindon and Wiltshire young people going on to higher education rising in the future.”

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bath, Professor Glynis Breakwell, said: "Swindon’s own future – and the future of many of its young men and women – depends on being fully prepared for the major changes that are taking place in the world of work in the UK. The University of Bath in Swindon wants to play a full part in ensuring that town’s young people have every opportunity to acquire the skills they need to be at the forefront of these changes.”

Dr Faith Butt, Director of the University’s Oakfield campus in Swindon, said: “The University is actively working on plans to develop part-time university courses at the Oakfield campus, prior to the development of a new campus. Such programmes will encourage new people to enter higher education.”

The study looked at young people aged 18 and 19 in the years 1994-2000. The Swindon figures relate to the Parliamentary constituencies of North Swindon and South Swindon, where the proportions of those going into higher education were 22 per cent and 24 per cent respectively.

The University of Bath has pledged to continue its vital work in encouraging as many young people as possible in the city to go into higher education, following the report's finding that Bath is doing well.

The proportion of young people going into higher education of 38 per cent was above the national average of 30 per cent and was the one of the highest in the West Country.

“The good participation rates among young people in Bath are heartening to see,” said the co-ordinator of the University’s Widening Participation work, Jenny Newley. “But we are still conscious that some school children who don’t come from a background of higher education may be missing out, hence our work in giving them a taste of what university life is like here.

“We believe this is pushing up the rate of participation in higher education and we are strengthening this part of our work.”

Notes

University of Bath in Swindon's first campus, Oakfield, opened in 2000 and offers a range of learning opportunities including business education, evening classes and courses leading to a range of undergraduate programmes. The University’s many business initiatives, including the Innovation Centre, the Enterprise Gateway and the Women into Enterprise scheme, help to support the Swindon economy.