In late 2011, the SW Spoke team was charged with the development of a national STEM widening participation project. Following the success of its regional project on Developing a Community of Practice for Outreach and WP Practitioners, the team identified the potential to deliver a national project aimed at fostering collaboration between universities and the third sector (i.e. voluntary and community sector organisations) in the field of STEM widening participation, through a community of practice model.
The project is being sustained into the 2012 - 2013 academic year and has its own website; contact Frances Laughton (email@example.com) or Ed Stevens at the University of Bath (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like further details on the project's current progress.
The original project aimed to:
Promote partnership between Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and ‘Third Sector’ organisations in the delivery of activities to enable progression to higher education from groups presently under-represented in higher education.
There were two strands to the project - a national and a regional focus:
The national strand of the project was led by AccessHE, a charity that focuses on enhancing social mobility through higher education. Between January and July 2012, AccessHE supported the following five concurrent strands of the project:
1. Funding of national exemplar projects: Five national third sector organisations (TSOs) received funding to develop models of third sector STEM outreach delivery by identifying a limited range of activities to be replicated on a wider scale, either by themselves, or by other organisations, which can learn from the models developed.
2. Creation of a National Forum: A community for national TSOs and key HEIs looking to initiate and shape a strategic discourse around TSO-HEI collaborations in STEM outreach was established.
3. Development of a website: An openly accessible website was produced to capture best practice from national and regional CoPs, as well as to host free STEM outreach activities and to stimulate discussion and debate in the field.
4. Publication on TSO-HEI collaborations: A publication entitled Unblocking the pipeline: How the third sector can increase HE participation in STEM subjects was produced, bringing together learning from the national exemplar projects and including 17 examples of university - third sector collaborations drawn from a call for evidence. The publication can be accessed below:
5. National conference: This was held in London on 3rd July 2012 and acted as an official launch for the national forum and regional communities of practice into 2012 - 2013, as well as an opportunity to showcase other outputs from the project to date. Over 70 delegates attended the event.
Beyond July 2012 AccessHE, in conjunction with the University of Bath, are continuing the national forum and the regional communities of practice (see below), ensuring that good practice in STEM outreach is shared across sectors and that a strategic voice is provided at a national level to influence policy makers. Contact Frances Laughton (email@example.com) or Ed Stevens (firstname.lastname@example.org) at the University of Bath for further information on the forum.
The regional strand of the original project was led by the University of Bath and aimed to foster a number of regional CoPs, bringing together STEM academics and outreach workers from regional HEIs alongside TSOs experienced, or interested, in STEM outreach, to identify and tackle regional challenges in STEM outreach.
Five regional CoPs were established as follows:
The regional CoPs have received funding to work on activities across the 2012 - 2013 academic year aimed at developing new, or improving existing, collaborative STEM outreach activities and / or developing or improving processes by which HEIs and TSOs engage and work with one another in the field of STEM outreach. Their work can be followed via the project's main website.