When I first began working in widening participation as an Access and Participation Officer for Bradford College, I was amazed by the wealth of support available to underrepresented groups of students. Having combed through the Bradford College Access and Participation Plan (APP) I was excited to showcase what was available. However, I had one immediate question: do students really read the APP? It was clear that some students may be missing out on the support they were entitled to. I became determined to ensure the information in the APP was as accessible as possible for the people who need it the most: the students.
This is how we came to develop The QUEST Team; a student-friendly service, aiming to support people in accessing Higher Education opportunities within Bradford College, regardless of the barriers they may face:
“The QUEST Team at Bradford College is here to answer your Questions about your future in Higher Education. We’re here to help you Understand your options so you can Excel in your next steps, wherever they take you. We’ll help you find the Support needed, that Targets your individual needs.”
The QUEST Team is a hub of APP information, signposting students towards the support available to them, at each lifecycle. We provide information, advice and guidance, as well as financial and pastoral support.
Within the widening participation community, we are finding more ways to ensure students from underrepresented groups receive the support they need. However, we are still reliant on students disclosing that they belong to a particular group. The QUEST Team aims to provide a safe space for students to do this, and discuss any barriers they may be facing in accessing Higher Education.
We hope to provide a level of anonymity, allowing students to self-identify with the groups we support, and empowering them to reach out and access what’s available to them. Our webpage provides helpful definitions of the different groups of students we work with, listing what support is available, without the complexity of the APP itself.
We work with students from application to enrolment and continue to be a point of contact throughout their education journey, ensuring they are receiving the relevant support. Amber, BA (hons) Make Up with Special Effects, who is from an estranged background, utilised the support of the QUEST Team. She said:
“The QUEST Team are very friendly and definitely provide a safe space for students like myself, which really helps me get the best out of my studies. I would definitely recommend reaching out if you need help from The QUEST Team. They have definitely made my life easier and I have been able to study without as much financial worry, which has made a huge impact on my day to day life in the past.”
Eleanor Conway, Access and Participation Officer, Bradford College