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University of Sunderland - HE provider of the year

Speaker key

JW: Joanna Wynn
LG: Lesley Griffin


JW: So I am here at the Access to HE Awards in Birmingham, with Lesley Griffin; Lesley is the Assistant Director of Marketing and Student Recruitment at the University of Sunderland. Congratulations, Lesley, on the University of Sunderland winning the HE Provider of the Year Award, how does that feel?

LG: It was fantastic news, in particular for our staff and the team that have been involved; but we are proud of the support that we offer to our applicants and students to help them make an informed choice; and in raising the benefits of a degree, and giving them the aspirations of anybody who wants to go to university, and the Access to HE Qualifications are a great way for anyone who wants to take a University level course, but didn't get the qualifications while they were at school, so it is a route that is really, a great route for anybody who wants that non-traditional way of getting a qualification.

JW: And as the HE Provider of the Year, perhaps you could tell me what makes Access Students attractive to the University of Sunderland?

LG: The qualification does what it says on the tin, and it prepares the student for University, we have academics who actually contribute through our local AVA who are the awarding organisation, and so they have the confidence to know that they have the skills that they need. We know that from the results our students get, when they actually graduate with their degree, we know the results…they do just as well as other students, if not better in some cases, so we are confident that the qualification is fit for purpose.

JW: And when they have done their Access course and they get their place at Sunderland, is there any specific support they need and that the University provides for them, having made that transition?

LG: We actually believe that it is important to give them that as they are thinking about coming to us. So we have actually developed a progression award, and it is a ten credit module that they can take alongside while they are doing their Access to HE Qualification, and we actually find Access students who are thinking about doing the Access to HE Qualification are interested in this as well, and it actually gives them credits and it develops their study skills and it actually provides ongoing support throughout the year so that if they have got any questions about Access HE, how to improve their application, if they have got any questions about finance; we deal with all of that during the year while they are actually going through their Access Qualification. So that they do that reflection on their learning all the way through their Access Qualification so it gives them the confidence and the skills that they need when they actually do join the programme. And then they have already built that link with staff within the institution, so that again gives them that confidence.

JW: Finally, Lesley, if there are people out there who are thinking of doing an Access Course, and thinking about going on to University, what would be your top tips?

LG: Have belief in yourself, never underestimate the power of your own experience and that is one of the things that our staff try and impress through this module that they are doing, it is reinforcing that belief in them, because by getting them to be reflective learners, and understand a lot of people have so many skills because they are working, they are balancing a family, they have had previous experience of education, they might have had a gap, but it all comes back to them, and it is that whole mix of qualification and life experience, and work experience that all builds up; so I would just say again, have belief in yourself. But the other important thing for us is, it is also about communication for applicants, and the communication between the Centres where they are actually taking their qualifications; so the one thing we try and do is to make sure that the FE Colleges, know what we offer and that we work closely with them and also with our local AVA to make sure that everybody is aware of the offer, what we expect, what we want, so that those students and applicants have the confidence to know that they can achieve.

JW: So, it is all about the information?

LG: It is. It is about the right information. Right student, right course, right place.

JW: Getting that working effectively. That is great, thanks Lesley so much for talking to me today.

LG: Thank you very much.

JW: And congratulations again.