The £21 million Aimhigher Associates Scheme was part of the wider Aimhigher programme, a national initiative funded by HEFCE. Overall, the scheme involved building supportive relationships between university students (Associates) and pupils (learners) within schools, colleges and academies throughout England. The main goal of the scheme was to encourage and motivate those learners from the lowest socio-economic categories who had the capacity and intellectual ability to benefit from HE.
The scheme, which operated through 42 Aimhigher Area Partnerships across England, was founded on school/university partnerships, which facilitated highly interactive relationships between learners and Associates. The scheme involved some 4,000 Associates, over 140 HE organisations, over 800 schools, colleges and academies and 19,000 learners.
Opportunities to interact
The Aimhiger Associates scheme offered learners opportunities to interact with Associates, most of whom came from similar social and educational backgrounds. They were therefore able to relate well to their learners, while also being familiar with the often daunting HE application process.
Through a series of one-to-one meetings, small group sessions (and, in many settings, e-exchanges) the scheme delivered the support and guidance which helped to break down the barriers of disadvantage. It also helped to equip learners with the confidence, motivation, knowledge and resourcefulness necessary to raise their aspirations and improve their educational performance.
Guidance and support
The scheme was coordinated by the National Coordination Team (NCT) based at Cardiff University. The NCT was responsible for the production of the Manual of Guidance for Area Partnerships, HEIs and Schools/Colleges/Academies, the Handbook for Aimhigher Associates and the National Training Standard. The NCT was also reponsible for servicing a national communications network and for providing other forms of support. These included guidance and advice to Area Partnerships, quality assurance and written reports from national progress review meetings, seminars and working groups.
The HEFCE report Aimhigher Associates – patterns of participation during the first year provides the first national analysis of the Aimhigher Associates scheme focusing specifically on the background characteristics of those who participated, either as learners or as Associates (mentors). The analysis covers activity during the 2009-10 academic year, the first year the scheme was launched nationally.