New online programme launched to provide more people a step up into healthcare careers

  • Dedicated young dentist at the University of Sheffield has launched an online programme, NOWPAS, to help others access higher education
  • The programme will support applicants of all ages from underrepresented groups with their applications to study any kind of healthcare degree
  • Now in its second year and working with a network of UK universities, the programme will offer 80 places to assist applicants applying for courses in 2021
  • In its first year, 56 per cent of NOWPAS participants who provided feedback were accepted into their chosen university course

An image of a young man learning via a laptop computer.

A research project which aims to increase the number of successful applications for healthcare degrees, has launched at the University of Sheffield.

The research focuses on the development of NOWPAS (the Network of Online Widening Participation Access Schemes), a programme to help young people from underrepresented groups progress into health related higher education courses.

Funded by a grant from Health Education England, the programme will not only assist current A-level or college students, it will also support, and is keen to hear from, mature applicants (aged over 21 years) who may not have had the opportunity earlier in their school life to consider university.

Last year the NOWPAS pilot programme supported 26 people through their applications to university, with 56 per cent of those who provided feedback being awarded offers to their chosen university course.

This year 80 people, of any age, who have ambitions of a career in healthcare, will be helped to navigate the complex application process for courses such as medicine, nursing and midwifery, and many other health related degrees such as human sciences and orthoptics at any UK university.

Adam Holder holds up a tablet computer with the start screen for the NOWPAS programme visible.Dedicated young dentist, Adam Holder, an Academic Clinical Fellow from the University of Sheffield’s School of Clinical Dentistry, was inspired to help others achieve and developed an online programme, NOWPAS, to provide an alternative pathway for people who are keen to study a health related course at university, but who may not be able to engage with already established programmes.

This could be because they don’t have the resources to travel to practice interviews or skills sessions; or it could be that the applicant is the first person in their family to apply to university, so they have little experience in navigating the application process.

Adam said: “I wanted to find a way to increase accessibility to universities such as Sheffield for those even harder to reach applicants. These could be individuals who are highly motivated and academically able, but they may experience barriers which other university applicants might not.

“I was the first person in my family to attend university, and not many people from where I lived considered university an option. Having the chance to be involved in the University’s widening participation programme really helped me to be confident about my decision.

“I understand how programmes like these can provide valuable opportunities for university applicants of all ages. I’m therefore keen to do my bit and give back, particularly for those applicants who might find universities harder to access.”

NOWPAS will provide prospective students with online assistance with their university applications, as well as holding virtual education sessions, providing links to university information online, and even providing students with easier access to attend virtual open days, practice interviews, on-campus tours, and educational sessions using low-cost virtual reality technology.

Helen Roy, from the University’s Department for Lifelong Learning, said: “To have over half of the students who provided feedback being offered a place on their first choice course during the pilot year of NOWPAS, is incredibly encouraging. We are finding new ways to effectively reach people who may be unable to engage with our existing access programmes, as well as those who had previously not considered themselves able to access university.”

The research project into the NOWPAS programme will continue to evaluate different methods of educational intervention, to increase the number of successful applications into health-related higher education.

Places on the project for applicants currently at sixth form and college are by invitation only, as the universities participating in this project are already engaging with the schools and students who they feel would most benefit from the programme.

However the NOWPAS team is keen to hear from mature applicants, who are interested in applying. If you are interested in studying a degree in Health and Human Sciences, or Orthoptics, please email the University’s Department for Lifelong Learning at: Or if you are interested in studying any other health-related degree, please contact and we will assess your eligibility.

Study with the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health

Additional information

  • A mature applicant is defined as an applicant who will be aged 21 or older at the point they would be starting their first university studies.
  • For more information about NOWPAS please visit:
  • Fore more information about the eligibility criteria for potential applicants from underrepresented groups in higher education, please visit: and
  • The research for the NOWPAS programme has been made possible with funding from Health Education England: which supports the delivery of excellent healthcare and health improvement to the patients and public of England by ensuring that the workforce of today and tomorrow has the right numbers, skills, values and behaviours, at the right time and in the right place.

The University of Sheffield

With almost 29,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2018 and for the last eight years has been ranked in the top five UK universities for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education.

Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.


For more information, please contact:

Rebecca Ferguson
Media Relations Officer
0114 222 9859