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3. Praxis Full Project Report Y032 research project - 1 Year Term - John Butcher.docx (440.67 kB)

Final Report - Preparing for success: understanding the impact of Y032 on WELS students

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posted on 2024-06-20, 15:13 authored by John Butcher, Karen Foley, Mick McCormick, Renu Bhandari, George Curry

Recent scrutiny from the Office for Students (OfS, 2022) in relation to student outcomes in England has highlighted a critical level of attrition affecting the continuation and progression of students across the sector. This particularly affects learners from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, threatening sector interest in widening HE participation to a more diverse, under-represented student population. The UK Open University (OU) has provided flexible higher education at scale and at a distance for (mainly) adult learners for over half a century. As part of its social justice mission to be ‘open to all’, the OU retains its original commitment to open access – no undergraduate qualifications have entry criteria (unless required by a professional body). This poses particular challenges for the institution when responding to Office for Students thresholds in comparison with the sector norm of entry requirements. The openness of the OU’s entry policies is central to its social justice and educational mission, however, with open access comes a responsibility to prepare students to succeed.

In 2012, when HE tuition fees were tripled in England, the OU were acutely concerned that higher costs would prevent students from the poorest backgrounds accessing HE. In response, the OU developed a part-time 30-week Access programme (30 credits at Level 0) to prepare students to thrive in HE. A strong pedagogic framework has been developed for these modules, including a common structure of three blocks, the first print-based and the second two digital. The approach also includes series of 1:1 conversations between individual students and a dedicated tutor.

A crucial impact recognised by former Access students and their tutors was a clear sense of preparedness for UG study, a sense in which they felt culturally ‘ready’ for the challenges of HE. This is vitally important for the success of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, particularly those older students returning to education after a length of time.

‘Y032 definitely gave me an edge when I started my degree. I could tell in the group forums which other students had studied an access course’

This is not about the institution, but rather the growth of a student to overcome dispositional barriers around confidence as a learner and a new understanding of learning how to learn.

‘I believe I wouldn’t have been prepared to study at UG level without having studied Y032 first’

The impact extends to performance and achievement:

‘Without Y032 I don’t think I would be achieving the marks I have on my first and current UG modules’.

The ‘Access effect’ appears to be demonstrable and effectively sustained, and is a result of three elements:- first, a structured transition into HE supported by regular feedback on progress, resulting in a step-by step iterative confidence-building process which overcomes dispositional barriers; second pro-active and empathetic tutor support to help students manage their (limited) study time and take a more strategic approach to assessment tasks (situational barriers; third, embedded infrastructure elements around accessible information, advice and guidance support which mitigate institutional barriers. As a result, students from disadvantaged backgrounds are prepared to succeed in UG study.





  • Public document

Authorship group

  • Academic - Central

Institutional priority category

  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion


  • Awarding Gaps
  • Curriculum Pathways
  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
  • Inclusive Assessment
  • Recognition of Prior Learning

Subject discipline

  • Education, Childhood, Youth, and Sport

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