Support for teachers will boost access to leading universities

  • Russell Group developing new resources in partnership with teachers in schools with low progression to university
  • 93 per cent of teachers said initiative improved their ability to help students write their personal statements
  • More than a third of teachers said they are now more likely to encourage students to apply to a leading university

Boosting support for teachers working with pupils on their university applications could significantly increase their chance of attending a leading university, new analysis of a widening participation programme involving the University of Sheffield has suggested.

Student filling out an application formAn evaluation report found teachers using free resources provided by the Advancing Access initiative recorded increased confidence in their ability to help pupils through the university application process.

Led by the 24 members of the Russell Group of universities – including the University of Sheffield - the Advancing Access initiative provides targeted assistance for teachers to help ensure students with talent, potential and ability are fully informed on their higher education options.

The University of Sheffield has a longstanding commitment to widening participation and each year works with over 500 local and regional schools and colleges and engages with over 40,000 outreach participants across the UK. Over 90 per cent of young people undertaking the University’s sustained outreach programmes have no family history of higher education and Sheffield’s record in this area makes the University one of the leading Russell Group universities for widening participation.

The new initiative aims to further improve work in this area. Resources have been developed in partnership with teachers in schools with low progression to university and include guidebooks, information sheets, presentations, student resources and video case studies.

Of the teachers who used the resources provided online at the Advancing Access website:

  • 93 per cent said that the material improved their ability to help students write personal statements, with 69 per cent of respondents reporting that it had made a significant difference.
  • 93 per cent of teachers said that they would write better academic references as a result of having used Advancing Access resources.
  • 89 per cent said that the website would improve their ability to help pupils prepare for interviews.

More than one third of teachers said they were more likely to encourage their students to apply to a leading university after using the materials or participating in an Advancing Access digital conference.

The findings of the initial evaluation report were revealed as Advancing Access opened registrations for a second online event and launched new resources designed to help teachers support pupils during the application process, inform them on admissions processes and provide information on Key Stage 4 and 5 qualifications.

James Busson, Chair of the Russell Group Widening Participation Association and Head of Outreach and Widening Participation at the University of Sheffield, said: “Advancing Access is at an early stage but these early findings are hugely positive. Teachers who are using these resources, or who participated in our virtual conference, are boosting the chances of their pupils making a successful application and attending a leading university.

“With new resources on admissions, the application process and post-16 qualifications now online we would encourage teachers working on university applications to take advantage of the support that is available.”

Next month (9 June 2017), the University will be hosting a conference at The Diamond building for teachers, managers and advisers at schools and colleges, who have responsibility for supporting students applying to university.

The event is aimed at exploring current issues in admissions, recruitment and outreach and will equip delegates with updated practical information to take back to their workplace, for colleagues and learners.

Additional Information

The Advancing Access website can be found at:

For more information on the University of Sheffield Conference for Teachers and Advisers, visit:

The University of Sheffield

With almost 27,000 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 2017 and was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education in 2014. In the last decade it has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

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, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.


For further information please contact:

Shemina Davis
Media Relations Manager
University of Sheffield
0114 222 5339