Investigating school focused interventions led by universities to increase HE participation in STEM subjects by socio-economically under represented

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Sch of Education and Lifelong Learning


To review the goals, design and impact of selected interventions delivered by UK universities, addressing five key questions:
* What definition of WP underpins the design of UK-based university-driven interventions?
* What are the motivations, perspectives and experiences of three key stakeholders to these interventions, as captured both before and after participation of
(i) student participants,
(ii) teachers that facilitated their participation,
(iii) university-based academic staff delivering the intervention?

* How can the collaborative design and delivery of such interventions be improved to increase STEM engagement amongst participating pupils?
* What is needed locally to develop WP interventions that maintain university autonomy, raise impact, but also lower potentially significant 'barriers to justice' (Jones et al., 2016)?
* What effect does this activity have on application and entry to university?

The work will draw upon existing knowledge in overlapping fields of study:
* Widening participation in higher education: the challenges faced, both nationally and globally, to improve higher education participation amongst underrepresented groups.
* Engagement in STEM by the pupils: the factors that support and hinder children's engagement with STEM, across different demographic groups;
* Effective design: interventions and experiences that are shown to have positive influence on children's STEM choices and the extent to which universities have the expertise and human resources necessary to deliver them.
* Engagement of pre-university children in WP programmes

The PhD research will draw on:
* Review of current practice:
* Interview evidence aimed at tracking the experiences of university-designed interventions

Purposive sampling to interview participants with a representative range of experiences. Unpacking the experiences of these participants to identify barriers to success.

Interview and participant observations of
* university academic staff about their perspectives and experiences:
* motivation, perspectives and expectations before going into schools
* reflections on the experience
* teachers
* student participants
* Refine models in collaboration with user groups
* Compare findings to existing ESRC research ASPIRE (Archer et al., 2013) and LSYPE (Keating et al., 2010)

Impact, aims & objectives
* A better understanding of the needs of lower SES pupils
* Evidence base for development of policy and practice in school-based WP,
* Advancing the ESRC research priority 'productivity' by refining the nature, design and efficacy of pre-university WP/STEM interventions through a socio-cultural framework

* What helps pupils from WP backgrounds access university? What are the contextual features and barriers?
* Review pre-conceptions of university academic staff who are involved in WP activity.
* Use insight from academics, school staff, and the students they engage with to develop more effective WP interventions.
* Developing university CPD that equips academic staff to affect WP activity.
* Design, evaluate and develop WP/STEM interventions and inform national and international practice that balances the institution's desire to pursue attainment through meritocratic selection and social justice.
* Implement and evaluate university delivered programmes to help build better, more sustainable relationships with schools.
* Working on identified HEFCE 'Research Gaps' to evaluate outcomes of academic research and practitioner-led initiatives. (Moore et al., 2013)


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2152519 Studentship ES/P000630/1 01/01/2019 31/12/2024 Luke Graham