Jan 2003 Susan and Peter begin a ten-month practitioner research project funded by the LSDA and all five of the Northwest LSCs. Fourteen teachers and tutors design research tools, collect and analyse data from 300 students in their own schools and colleges. One finding is that teachers and tutors are a principal source of advice for students applying to university, but they rarely have any training for that role.
Dec 2003 Launch of the research report ‘Getting Them In’ generates considerable media attention largely focussed on the serious lack of knowledge or understanding of new student finance systems that was revealed by the research.
June 2004 A conference to disseminate the report findings is packed, but in the plenary session, one of the practitioner researchers makes an appeal. “This project was all about teachers and tutors, but there are very few here today because we can’t get cover for events like this. Please find a way to let us participate.” At the close of the conference, Susan and Peter sit outside a pub opposite the venue to discuss their response to the practitioner’s plea. By the time their glasses are empty, they have created UP2UNI on the back of an envelope.
Sept 2004 UP2UNI is launched. A choice of four topics that underpin higher education decision making will be delivered in 60-90 minute sessions in schools or colleges at a time when teachers and tutors can attend. Peter will deliver the sessions and at no cost to the institution. Initial project funding comes from Aimhigher Northwest, Manchester Metropolitan becomes host institution. A flyer is mailed out, and the UP2UNI diary is rapidly filled. Word of mouth continues to fill the diary for the next seven years.
Jan 2007 By July 2006 we have already delivered 115 UP2UNI sessions to 916 staff in schools and colleges across the Northwest and we ask Lancaster University to conduct an external evaluation. Their report, published in Jan 2007 notes very positive feedback about our practically-focussed materials and the tailoring of each session to an institution’s particular needs. They report that a major factor contributing to the success of UP2UNI is Peter's expertise and his understanding of institutional culture.
Sept 2007 The scope of UP2UNI is expanded to include sessions for Union Learn representatives so that they can better understand how to support adults who wish to enter higher education. Funding now comes from Aimhigher Greater Manchester and Cumbria, with Manchester Metropolitan University continuing to host and support the project.
2011 UP2UNI has now reached thousands of staff in hundreds of schools and colleges but a radical restructuring of national support for widening participation brings about the closure of Aimhigher, consistently one of UP2UNI’s major sources of funding. A search for alternative hosts or funders is not successful. Susan and Peter create the UP2UNI Community Interest Community and begin to refocus its work within new parameters.
2012-2017 The loss of widening participation funding restricts UP2UNI activities to research with sixth form and college students. Dissemination at conferences and direct contact with politicians and policy makers shows a continued need for our work. During this time Susan completes a PhD at the IOE, UCL's Faculty of Education and Society. Her work fills an important gap in the research field - understanding how young people pick just five courses from thousands of options for their UCAS form.
2018 The publication of Susan’s PhD increases awareness of UP2UNI and generates offers of research funding that allow us to expand the scope of UP2UNI. We begin to work with young people who are now at university or in employment, and able to reflect on the post-16 decisions they made and the impact on their career aspirations.
2019 UP2UNI returns to active work with practitioners, collaborating with schools and colleges to share the findings of our research with their students and explore how our recommendations can be embedded into school policy and practice to improve knowledge and understanding of university and employment-based routes to a career, supporting better-informed decision making.
2020 A series of longitudinal interviews with young people explores the transition from school to university or work. The pandemic adds an unexpected variable and we begin to document the impact of Covid-19 on young people, identifying some serious challenges that don't emerge in the broad media coverage, but also discovering remarkable examples of fortitude and resilience.
2021 Our final report of a three-year evaluation of the impact of Professional Pathways, an enhanced BTEC programme delivered in the sixth-forms of Ark schools, is published. The report launch coincides with a government decision to remove funding from BTEC qualifications, leaving students with a post-16 choice of A levels or the new T levels, technical qualifications in a range of employment sectors.
UP2UNI begins a new project to research the long-term impact of the BTEC Diploma, interviewing adults who took the qualification at any time since its introduction in 1984. Their reflections are overwhelmingly positive.
2022 Working both independently and with research partners, UP2UNI is leading or supporting projects that explore a range of influences on educational choices, transition at key stages, and preparation for employment and adult life.