As we finish another admissions cycle we begin to reflect back on a very turbulent time for the students that are about to enter Bath. Students entering Bath this summer began their sixth form studies in 2019 with the same excitement and anticipation of any other cohort before them. Little did they know what would greet them halfway into their first year of their studies. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many challenges, students have had a significant amount of time out of the classroom, the move online highlighted the digital divide and students had to work out how to go through the process of applying to university in an online environment. The students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds have been, once again, most disadvantaged by the systems and the situation. At Bath we’ve done everything we could throughout the pandemic, being one of the first universities to move content online, introducing new activity and supporting more students than ever before. As soon as we were able, we also offered opportunities for students to visit our campus to really get a feeling for what the experience at university may be like.
For the students entering this year we introduced a new contextual offer programme, Access to Bath, where students who meet the University’s Widening Participation (WP) criteria could receive an alternative offer for completing an online programme that supports them through the process of transitioning to Bath. Almost 2,000 offers were made to students to take part in Access to Bath and around half of them chose to take part. The students who engaged and passed the module had their alternative offer applied at confirmation, almost 20% of the students offered the programme will be starting Bath this September. Despite this success we were disappointed that several students who were offered the programme chose not to complete it and as a result didn’t have an alternative offer, if these particular students had completed the module they would have been accepted onto their programme of choice. As the programme grows we hope students will continue to see the value and that all the students who put us as firm choice and have an Access to Bath offer complete it.
Despite the challenges of working online the WP Outreach Team engaged with more students than ever and this year we will have more WP students that have taken part in WP programmes starting at Bath than ever before. Almost 40% of all WP students that are entering Bath in 2021 have engaged with one of the more intensive WP programmes the University has run, a great achievement in difficult circumstances.
Throughout the admissions cycle we’ve been aware of the challenges students are currently facing and those that they will in the future. The Admissions Progression Team and the wider Admissions Team have been key to identifying students that need additional support. Alongside them, teams across the University have ensured students feel as prepared as possible for their beginning at Bath, we delivered more opportunities to talk to our students, virtual and in-person Applicant Visit Days and developed a new virtual resource, the Transition Toolkit, to support students with the preparation for starting at Bath.
The pandemic has bought many challenges, but as we can reflect on a really positive admissions cycle and we are pleased that we will have more students from disadvantaged backgrounds than ever before. The University’s Access and Participation Plan sets out targets the University should achieve and this year has been a good start to the journey of meeting those targets.
This is the start of the journey and we have to continue to support the most disadvantaged students. Our work to support the students entering in 2022 began last September and we’ve already engaged with lots of students. We’ve introduced new activity including a new programme with Rare Recruitment, Target Bath, to support Black students and a partnership with Villiers Park to develop students’ skills and prepare them for university study. We’ve always been keen to give students the opportunity to visit the campus, but that has become even more important over the last couple of years. We know that choosing a university is difficult at the best of times, but as someone said to me it can be like buying a house, you get a feeling and without experiencing a place in-person it can be hard to choose the best place for them. To support students in times of very few in-person open days we’ve been running in-person activity on campus throughout the summer and will continue as restrictions allow.
As the year moves on and we all begin to focus on the next admissions cycle we are hopeful that the hard work the WP outreach team and others have put in to support the most disadvantaged students throughout the pandemic will mean that Bath will see an even more diverse cohort in 2022.