Widening participation at the University of Leicester

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“Our key challenge, when it comes to widening participation, is meeting our access objectives year on year.”

The Challenge

As one of our partner institutions, the University of Leicester looked to Unibuddy to help support in solving the problem with widening participation.

Elliot Newstead, Head of UK Student Recruitment and Outreach, explains “Our key challenge, when it comes to widening participation, is meeting our access objectives year on year.”

“One of these objectives is focused on increasing our offer rate to disadvantaged BAME students (quintiles 1 and 2) with a particular focus in STEM, as a lot of the data showed there was a disparity in the offer rate amongst that audience”.

“As a result, we’ve been doing a lot of work around raising aspiration, and raising attainment; such as launching our new ‘Access Leicester’ maths tutoring scheme; within that, the use of students and the use of role models is really key

“WP (widening participation) is a continuation of really good work we’re doing, keeping up that pace and making sure we’re still attracting particularly the disadvantaged areas and low socio-economic backgrounds.”

“More recently, we’ve been told we need to modernise and evolve the team so it’s not just a schools liaison team. So, what we’ve tried to do over the last few years is try and become early adopters of some interesting new tech products – Unibuddy being one example.”

The Solution

On the search for a solution, Unibuddy was able to provide exactly what the University of Leicester was looking for and more; a platform to facilitate peer-to-peer connection in the digital age, plus the ability to host a variety of virtual events.

“If you’d have asked me what are you planning to use Unibuddy for in March 2019 it would have been ‘connecting students to students’, but I think the way we use it now in terms of delivering taster days, admissions Q&As, live streaming, postgraduate content as well as the chat, as well as the functional stuff – that’s the main differentiator from what we expected.”

“With our focus on WP, when it came to selecting ambassadors, we didn’t choose them based on student ‘background’ we did it based on the likelihood of people to be able to connect with them. Having said that, we were very quick off the mark to make sure that we had a mature learner ambassador on Unibuddy, people from London, people from areas that we know some of our big WP audiences are geographically based.”

“It’s also all about making it visible to the prospective students – so putting the mature learner popcard on the mature learner webpage, where they’re likely to visit for instance, it makes all the difference.”

The Result

Having their student ambassadors so accessible by placing them in the digital environment has helped the University of Leicester not only connect with prospective students from anywhere in the world, at any time but also connect with those ‘hard-to-reach’ prospective students.

“Before we had Unibuddy we were able to showcase our ambassadors five times a year at on-campus events, for students that enquired, but now it’s on all year round and we get to showcase the faces of the university to anyone around the world. So far, we’ve had enquiries from 167 different countries.”

“In terms of expected outcomes, we thought we’d see a bit of a bump but actually the more we’ve used it the more we’ve seen a significant impact.”

Unibuddy has exceeded expectations. If I look at it now and how it’s embedded across the whole uni at a pre-enrolment stage, it blows my mind a little bit because I didn’t think it would go this far. In 2019 we exceeded our WP targets and we look on track to perform well in the current cycle too.

“It’s talked about at the highest of levels internally, which I think is probably the main indication that things seem to have gone well.”

“The impact of it has been ridiculous. Looking back it was a wise decision.”


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