Access All Areas Conference: making universities accessible to all

Thursday 19-01-2017 - 14:46

Ilyas Nagdee, Diversity Officer at the University of Manchester Students’ Union, writes about his union’s upcoming conference which looks at the role of current students in access and widening participation.

I had no plans on going to University. During my time at college, I was on a widening participation initiative that introduced me to Higher Education. Through several activities including meeting current students from a similar background to me – a working class student who was the first in his family to apply for university - I successfully entered university. 

Education is transformational. Throughout my undergraduate degree, I worked alongside dedicated and committed staff and students transforming the lives of thousands of young people who were not expected to go to university. At the University of Manchester Students’ Union we house ‘Access All Areas’, facilitating student led widening participation projects that aim to tackle educational inequality. 

On Thursday 16 March 2017, Access All Areas will be holding a conference at Manchester supported by NUS President Malia Bouattia as part of the Liber8 Education national campaign. This commitment to widening participation in part stems from her own experiences of education.

“I came to this country as a refugee at the age of 7 because my parents wanted to ensure that I would receive an education free of fear. Attending university was a great source of pride for my family, but it came with many difficulties as a working class Algerian woman on a campus that was far from diverse in student body, staff and course content. Getting involved in widening participation projects and my equality and diversity department allowed me use my feelings of isolation and throw my energy into initiatives that addressed the barriers within our institutions.”

We will be looking at some key themes of working in Widening Participation namely:

  • Building and maintaining effective University – Union Partnerships
  • Examples of Student-led programmes from across the country
  • Examples of effective student leadership
  • Experiences of Access All Areas and Living Off Campus Project at the University of Manchester Students’ Union

We have had workshop submissions from across the country spanning many universities and students’ union’s including Kings College London, KCL Students’ Union, Sussex Students’ Union, University of Wolverhampton and more. We will also be joined by colleagues from our university as well as organisations such as the Brilliant Club.

This conference is ideal for practitioners from students’ unions, universities and widening participation organisations as well as university students. It will be of particular interest to those who hope to develop student leadership within access and widening participation initiatives. 

You can purchase the tickets for the conference here and the draft agenda will be released next week.



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