Here at the Trust, our ambition is to work toward ensuring fair access to education for every young person in Scotland – by directly supporting individual students, and through partnership initiatives to widen access and participation.
Our Scholarship Strategy for 2017-19 responds to the report by the Commission on Widening Access, A Blueprint for Fairness (2016), and subsequent work by universities, colleges and the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) to implement its recommendations.
It has two key development strands: Widening Access (helping young people to enter tertiary education) and Widening Participation (supporting them throughout their journey in tertiary education).
Through these two strands, we support promising young people throughout the entire learner journey – from primary school to graduate career – so that they may overcome the barriers they face and fulfil their potential as successful graduates in the job market.
By funding partnership projects with colleges and universities, we assist young people to make successful transitions from school to further and higher education. Every learner is unique, and the projects we fund reflect that by starting from the particular needs and talents of each student.
The First Chances initiative, launched in 2015 with the University of St Andrews, helps P7 to S6 students in Fife to fulfil their potential at school and to go on to university. In 2018-19, we are supporting Fife College to join the programme and provide a wider range of subjects and learner pathways.
We are also supporting projects with Borders College, Glasgow Kelvin College and Forth Valley College. These focus on one-to-one mentoring and support of young people in danger of disengagement from education altogether, in some cases blending a youth work approach with more conventional teaching.
We also are one of the core funding partners for the MCR Pathways programme being rolled out across all schools in Glasgow to provide mentorship to over 1,300 care-experienced young people. It focuses on the need for tailored support, treating each learner as unique.
Our activity in widening access is still developing. As we grow the number and range of projects with our partners, we will identify what is needed to provide a learner-centred pathway to success. We hope the knowledge gained from these projects will, in time, support the development of a truly equitable system of access to education.
Our core Journey to Success programme directly supports promising young people who have the ability, but not necessarily the financial means, to go to university. Robertson Scholars come from a wide range of backgrounds, but all have some form of socio-economic need combined with talent, potential and a commitment to making the most of our support.
Successfully completing a higher education course requires not just financial support, but also skills development, mentoring and strong professional networks. The programme aims to provide these for around 160 young people every year.
At its core is a suite of workshops and training opportunities to help build resilience and ‘soft skills’ in preparation for a graduate career. Second year Scholars act as ambassadors for each year’s new intake, giving peer support and organising social events and fundraising activities.
We also source and fund internships for each Scholar and offer leadership development for the most talented. We are also developing dedicated pathways for particular sectors such as banking and investment management, public service and international development, providing mentoring and work experience.
Some students have particular challenges that may prevent them from engaging fully with Journey to Success. So, for 2017/18 we developed a pilot Lone Parent Bursary offering dedicated support to six students. This is being evaluated and we will work with partners such as SWAP East to consider how to expand it in future.
Students also face challenges in accessing college courses. Through our expanding College Bursary scheme, we provide financial support to students who have come through the MCR Pathways programme.
For the future, we plan to expand our support pre- and post-graduation to identify young people with talent at an early stage and help them realise their potential at university and beyond, linked to our widening access projects.