Project to tackle barriers to student success

20 March 2017

Students at Canterbury Christ Church University are to benefit from a new project to address differences in student outcomes.

Led by Professor Sherria Hoskins, from the University of Portsmouth, the project has been awarded £500,000 by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).  Christ Church is one of four University’s working with Portsmouth on the project, and will receive around £50,000.

The students who will benefit are from the groups least likely to apply to university and, if they do attend, most likely to drop out, or not perform well academically, despite entering with excellent qualifications.

The main aim of the project is to try and close the attainment gap in black and minority ethnic groups and those from disadvantaged families.

The Changing Mindsets project includes helping overturn sometimes deeply-held beliefs and prejudices that an individual can’t achieve, and replacing it with an understanding that the ability to do things grows through effort and by embracing challenges. It has been reported to have had a profound effect on children and their teachers in previous trials.

Professor Helen James, Pro-Vice chancellor of Education and Student Experience at Canterbury Christ Church University, said:  “We are delighted to be working with Portsmouth and the other partner institutions on a project which has the potential to eradicate the impact of stereotype threat on performance in university students.

“Christ Church has a long and proud and history of working successfully with students from a wide variety of backgrounds. By taking part in this project we hope to be able to ensure all students, regardless of their background, benefit from a university experience and help to close the unacceptable differences in outcomes between groups of students.”

The project will start this September with student and staff workshops at the University of Portsmouth, University of the Arts London, University of Brighton, University of Winchester and at Christ Church where the institutional lead will be Principal Lecturer in Learning and Teaching, Rayya Ghul.

Experts at all five universities will work with students and their teachers on changing mindsets, bias reduction and habit breaking. The team aims to develop a social media community of learning and digital toolkits for staff at other universities to use as part of continuing professional development.

The first results of the two-year study are expected in June 2018, and will include data on individuals’ perceptions and any changes they’ve made or noticed, alongside the number of disadvantaged students who complete their course and their average grades compared to similar groups’ results in the same and previous years.

Professor Hoskins, from the University of Portsmouth, said: “This is the first time a group of UK universities have joined forces to trial a project which has the potential to eradicate the impact of stereotype threat on performance in university students.

“I am delighted to have won funding; it underlines the urgent need to find out why some people who are more than capable intellectually of studying at university so often fail to complete their courses, or do so with lower grades.  It is not acceptable to continue to accept the achievement gap between students who enter with similar grades.

“Our belief is that growth mindset techniques – which is relatively simple to apply – will help change the culture in higher education institutions, by working with students and teaching staff.

“We expect the results will help bring about a sea change for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who have the potential to study and do extremely well at university.”

Notes to editors

Canterbury Christ Church University

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.

With 17,000 students across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • 96% of our UK undergraduates were in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.
  • We are one of the South East’s largest providers of education, training and skills leading to public service careers.

*2014/15 Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey

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Last edited: 24/04/2017 16:22:00