FSB is committed through its Mission Statement and Corporate Objectives and Values to facilitate the concept and practice of widening participation in higher education by recruiting the most able students from diverse backgrounds and in particular those whose educational experience to date has been one of underachievement.
The College’s determination to achieve an even more diverse student community, recognises the social, educational and cultural benefits this confers to the individual and society in general. Given the nature of our student recruitment we aim to reduce barriers to learning by constantly reviewing and evaluating our student recruitment and admissions, induction, learning and teaching, assessment, student support, staff development, and course development to ensure that all those with the potential to succeed at FSB can do so. In this way we will continue to do everything we can to make the College even more attractive to those from under-represented groups. This is supported through activities to encourage fair access, retention and performance.
The commitment to widening participation is exemplified by :
The FSB Mission Statement confirms its commitment to the highest standards in teaching and learning and to making the College as attractive and accessible as possible to students.
The Admissions Policy reiterates our belief in the educational and social benefits, to the College and to our students, of a diverse student population, drawn from all sections of society. In practice the College mainly attracts applications from mature students (current average age is 35 with a range from 22 to 55). These students have typically underachieved in secondary education for a variety a reasons and comprise diverse ethnic groups and those with disabilities. Screening for Accreditation of Prior Experience (SAPE) takes place where appropriate.
The Student Support Policy and Disability Policy introduces student support as a key theme to support individuals of all backgrounds, abilities and aspirations in order to fulfil their potential through learning, achievement and progression . This is demonstrated by the availability of designated support in specific areas, pastoral, careers , and academic run by appropriately qualified staff.
The College’s commitment to the principles can be seen in the following programme for the progression of a student from initial contact to completion:
Pre-entry advice and guidance
The delivery of appropriate academic and pastoral guidance to all prospective and current students is an important strategic policy . The recruitment process starts with an open day where Admissions and faculty staff members deliver a presentation about the College.
Admissions and induction
After that stage applicants are shortlisted and selected individuals are invited to attend an ‘Assessment Day’. Applicants complete the registration form, undertake an Initial Entry Test and an English and Numeracy test. They then complete the required SAPE (Screening for Accreditation of Prior Experience).
After an applicant’s documents are checked and verified, they are then interviewed by an academic staff member. This dialogue between an academic staff member and prospective student is crucial, and during the interview, staff members evaluate the applicant’s suitability for the programme as well as their intention and motivation to successfully complete their targeted qualification.
During the interview, the academic staff member also identifies areas of improvement for an applicant. At that stage, it may also be the case that the interviewer refers the applicant to the Academic Support Centre in order to attend additional workshops. Upon successful completion of the admission process, and once the applicant accepts the offer to study, the form is sent to the Academic Support Centre for further reference. For mature students who have not been part of the formal education process for many years study skills in various aspects including IT invariably need revision and reinforcement
The final step before the programme commencement is Induction. During this day, new students are provided with important further information some of an administrative nature but including a study skills programme run by the academic staff
Lectures, tutorials, office hours, personal tutors and academic support are all different levels of support to students which take place. Each semester personal tutors monitor students’ academic progression as well as attendance and familiarise themselves with their allocated students Personal development plans are also linked in the process.
Consequently, a rapport between personal tutor and student is developed and this also contributes to student engagement at much higher levels. The lead personal tutor is in constant communication with the personal tutors and any problems identified are dealt with swiftly. When a particular student has been identified as needing further general support, the personal tutor refers the individual to Academic Support Centre
Second term/semester and on
Whilst personal tutoring continues to play an important role in supporting students the role of the Academic Support Centre becomes increasingly significant. This Centre was specifically set up in recognition that mature students returning to education after many years and with variable experience often find it difficult to readjust to a learning culture. Following the Examination Board at the end of the first semester students who have not successfully completed the required assessments are referred to the Centre where they receive support additional to their concomitant studies in order to retrieve the missed assessments. This support continues, subject to Examination and Progression Board determinations, throughout the course. In this way the College recognises the challenges which can accompany the commitment to widening access particularly in the successful retention of some students.
Throughout the course the College offers pastoral support from staff with relevant experience. It is inevitable that many mature students will encounter problems of a social nature such as those in respect of families and other relationships. Support from Student Support plays an integral part in the retention of students who may be considering withdrawing because of outside factors and where unexpected demands of their course impinge on other commitments.
The College recognises the need to prepare for and facilitate student progression after completion of their course. As part of the dedicated Student Support team staff specialise in careers advice. This may take the form of further study or employment. This employment may involve the students own company.
To this end the Support team will operate a number of strategies. These include one to one interviews, seminars on careers often with specialist outside speakers, organisation of visits to employment exhibitions, workshops on CV writing ,interview techniques and university application. These are often run in conjunction with the College Student Union. This Union although set up with a constitution and with elected representatives in the traditional pattern specifically focuses on the needs of the mature student population in particular facilitating a system of self help utilising the varied experiences of its members.
In summary FSB is committed to the policy of widening participation in higher education and its student profile equates totally with this aim. Thus it works to raise aspirations and educational attainment among its students by: