Being PURSUE: Our Launch Event

I’ve worked in higher education for almost four years now, moving into this sector from a job in what now feels like the ‘real world’, where I was often engaging with people who were taking part in our research projects – ranging from parents being asked about their views on funding for their parent’s group being cut; to people who were homeless and being asked about their experiences.

I’ve been trying to get involved in things that keep me in touch with the people my job is supposed to be supporting

Going from this to a job that was much more focused on a specific group of people (young people who essentially live in certain areas deemed ‘Low Participation Neighbourhoods’) and basically colleagues in my own HEI and across the sector was quite a shock! Coupled with the fact I work in data and I now have a desk job. Since then, I’ve been trying to get involved in things that can keep me in touch with the people my job is supposed to be supporting – and I think I have found this in PURSUE.

Not knowing much about the university world, and only understanding widening participation from reading about it I was looking for events which would explain it all to me. I ended up attending events about evaluating widening participation endeavours, or how to complete the access and participation plans…but nothing where I heard from actual students. The majority of events I’ve attended or been involved with since working in HE have been around the following subjects:

  • Data in higher education
  • Evaluation of outreach/widening participation work
  • Teacher and advisor conferences
  • University application cycle type events
  • General working in higher education type events
  • General working in widening participation type events

Although I would say these events were worth attending, basically they were nothing like PURSUE’s first event. Disclaimer – I am part of the PURSUE group, and assisted with the afternoon discussions; but the main event PURSUE colleagues had put together was one you couldn’t help but find memorable.

The speakers at the event were those kind of people people who when they talk, you listen

Names that anyone with an interest in widening access, social mobility and social justice will immediately recognise. The talks from each of the speakers were genuinely engaging, it was clear speaking to this audience was important to them. You could tell this was the case for other attendees too, just by reading through the chat! Personally, my favourite speaker (aside from the students) was Nicola Ingram – I loved how she took the opportunity to read out a poem from a student of hers – and openly admitted she hates public speaking!

The Student representation was hands down the best bit of the event – hearing from working class students about their lived experience of university as working class students – intersecting with their gender and race was what I had been searching for since I first started working for the university. The speeches were emotive and rousing, and I could have listened to them speak all day. It’s the kind of stuff we should be listening to and putting to the top of the agenda for learning from. The students were from RECLAIM[1] – an organisation well worth checking out

Afternoon Discussion session – What a turnout! End of day in December, at the end of a very long year….

Tt was great to sit and chat to other people who had similar views and interests – but also those who have so much knowledge, experience and ideas. It didn’t feel like a chore and I didn’t feel like running a mile when the breakout groups began like I have done on other occasions!


[1] https://www.reclaim.org.uk/

Vicky Peace

If you’d like to get as fired up by one of our events, there’s still time to register for our upcoming Language, Accent and Unequal Opportunity event, see below for details.

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