Making it real
SFC Chair, Mike Cantlay, reflects on an event for young people making positive steps towards a college or university education.
The Scottish Funding Council wants Scotland to be the best place in the world to learn, educate, research and innovate. This means we have to value and nurture talent in young people long before they even start to think about filling in a UCAS or a college application form. This is especially true in schools where going onto higher education is below the national average.
Through our Schools for Higher Education Programme, the Scottish Funding Council supports and funds projects across the whole of Scotland to work in such schools and increase the number of their pupils going to (and also staying in) higher education. In Fife and Tayside the programme is run by LIFT OFF. Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to a fantastic event at the University of St Andrews to celebrate LIFT OFF pupils successfully completing a week-long residential course that immerses them in the world of colleges and universities. During their LIFT OFF 2 Success course, the pupils got taster sessions in courses as diverse as psychology and horticulture. Along the way they also got to deal with a zombie outbreak and create slime in a university chemistry lab!
By the time I got to meet them on the Friday they were tired, happy to be reunited with their families and buzzing with ideas about where their education could take them. Two pupils, Andrew and Regan (incredibly brave of them to stand up in front of so many people) explained how the week had changed their outlook, made them feel more comfortable about the future and increased their confidence.
One of the great things about the LIFT OFF 2 Success week is that the volunteers and student helpers who play such an important part in making things go smoothly include people who themselves have benefitted from the LIFT OFF programme before going on into higher education. They’re now supporting similar young people to do the same. One of them, Hannah, had just graduated from Abertay University with a degree in Psychology and Counselling and has been a LIFT OFF volunteer for four years. For the class of 2018, volunteers like Hannah, Stephanie, Abbie and Casey were living proof that LIFT OFF can make a difference and can open up opportunities that may otherwise have past them by.
As Chair of the Scottish Funding Council, one of the benefits of attending last week’s event was to see how our policies and investments impact on real people. Especially in this Year of Young People it’s great to be reminded that the widening access, skills and employability projects that cross funding council desks as business cases, committee papers and evaluation forms really do change lives.
The experiences of the talented young people I met last week are being replicated across Scotland this summer at similar events designed to demystify college and university education and inspire young people who may very well be the first in their families ever to have gone on to higher education. I wish all of them the very best of luck.
Mike Cantlay, Chair of the Scottish Funding Council - 11 Jul 2018