Monday, 21 May 2012

Outreach, simply reaching-out? (Part 1)

How do we define Outreach? Can we define it or is it simply 'reaching out'? 

Now I'm not much of a wordsmith, but I've always looked to the Oxford English Dictionary as first port of call for any of my referencing needs (those of you lucky enough to read my dissertation will certainly agree!).


They define Outreach (as a verb), as 'To hand out, or over. To present, give' while another definition sees it as 'To exceed or go beyond bounds; to stray'. I really like the term 'stray' as I think it best defines what we do, and why we do it. Whether it is the boundaries of access to University, or the very nature of communicating with organisations outisde of our own, I like to think we're always looking to 'spread the word', or 'stray', across a few barriers.

As I have a tendency of going into great detail (!), I've decided to take the first Outreach blog in two parts. Be sure to look out for Part 2 in the coming days where we'll look at what Outreach actually looks like to a possible student.

Now how do I start to explain the changes in the Outreach Office over the past two years? It’s a tricky task, but one I’m willing to have a go at. Be prepared for a rollercoaster ride through government policy, aspirational plans, and one persons journey through the whole process!


At Chester our Outreach Office comprises of seven of us in all, with schools and college’s liaison activity and our department’s widening participation activity, combining into one unit over two years ago. This meant that all communication from our department with schools and colleges would be co-ordinated through the work of Outreach, as well as working towards being aware of the communication being made between the wider University and these institutions.

Wordle: The Browne Report

Some of these changes were made before the Browne report and before the Coalition Government’s announcements of changes to the funding system for those starting higher education in 2012. This meant we were very well placed to add three members of staff at the beginning of this year, to meet the needs of a quickly changing HE climate in this country.
Through all the media coverage of what’s been happening in higher education over the past few months, there have been repeating themes, terms, and questions, being thrown about by the media and the sector.

  • How do we ‘widen participation?’
  • What ‘outreach’ activity are Universities involved in?
  • The students as a 'consumer'
  • The overall issue of Social Mobility

Hopefully through our updates you may be able to understand how we’re working to solve some of these. Now put simply, there are two distinct areas which Outreach covers, and explains the different types of activity we're involved in;

"Widening Participation & Recruitment"

There are age groups, and students, who may interact with both areas throughout their school or college experience, and it's important we're aware of their requirements. As pupils become students, and students become consumers, the Outreach process is involved in every step of their journey.

End of Part One...

Although relatively brief, I'm sure you'll agree that the scope of Outreach is rather large across the entire University, and society beyond. We haven't yet got to 'Joe' and his educational journey, but as an introduction to the topic of Outreach, I hope you've found it insightful.

Thank you reading, and be sure to tune in next time.


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