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Dr Emily Flaherty writes about the achievements of the Glasgow Caledonian University Advanced Higher Hub and the plans underway to extend its success.

Banner image for Bridging the gap to university

Widening access

Schools for Higher Education Programme

Since 2013, Glasgow Caledonian University Advanced Higher Hub has provided equity of access to Advanced Higher qualifications and an immersive university transition programme for Glasgow City school pupils.

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC), Glasgow City Council and Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) co-fund the Hub for Glasgow pupils in 31 partner secondary schools. The Hub’s SCQF level 7 qualification provision alongside a year-long university experience aims to both tackle low rates of university progression and support successful transitions to further or higher education.

Glasgow Caledonian University is the only university in Scotland to deliver this year-long immersive bridging and transition programme with pupils registered as associate students, and employing General Teaching Council teachers to deliver qualifications on a university campus.

Over 50 per cent of our Glasgow students are from the most deprived communities in the city (defined as SIMD20 postcodes) and 70 per cent live in SIMD40 areas. Nationally, 11.7 per cent of school leavers who attained SCQF Level 7 were from the 20 per cent most deprived communities, with 26.9 per cent of school leavers who attained SCQF Level 7 from the 40 per cent most deprived communities. The Advanced Higher Hub has attained above the national average pass-rate over the past eight years at an average of 90 per cent across the nine subjects it offers, with 98 per cent of Hub students progressing to HE.

Young people walking down stairs.

The ambition of the Hub to develop a model beyond Glasgow provision was accelerated when we moved to online delivery in academic year 2019/20 during the Covid-19 pandemic, and further development of a blended model of delivery in Glasgow, with some classes online and others taking place on the university campus. The Hub’s approach to blended learning enables Hub pupils to develop and apply digital and independent learning skills on GCU’s virtual learning environment, GCU Learn, ready for progression to HE.

In 2021/22, GCU entered a pilot partnership with SFC and Dumfries and Galloway Education Directorate to provide Advanced Higher qualification provision and the Hub’s programme of university transition to pupils living across the region. The Hub’s extension into the region was in part driven by the percentage of young people entering HE from Dumfries and Galloway, as within the most deprived SIMD20 communities, progression is as low as 7 per cent.

The pilot was launched with three Advanced Higher subjects: Biology, English and Modern Studies, and is funded in partnership by the SFC, Dumfries and Galloway, and GCU. The pilot project provides weekly synchronous online classes for pupils, in which pupils learn collaboratively with their teacher and classmates on GCU Learn. Pupils also visit GCU campus at key points in the academic year for HE transition and progression activities such as UCAS mentoring, academic development workshops and coursework clinics.

At our most recent HE visit for our online students, our Modern Studies and English classes took part in a Moot Court event in conjunction with GCU Law, with pupils honing their analysis, debating and public speaking skills. Our online Biology students meanwhile visited Millport Field Studies Centre on the Isle of Cumbrae for a laboratory skills residential, with students practicing sampling techniques in the field and conducting lab experiments in preparation for their exam and progression to degree study.

Biology students visit Millport Field Studies Centre for a laboratory skills residential.

In 2021/22, we’re undertaking a systemic evaluation of the Advanced Higher Hub led by GCU PVC Research and GCU PVC Learning and Teaching, with a study of learner confidence launched to measure the impact of the Hub as a HE bridging and transition programme. Whilst still in the pilot phase, the online Hub is an exciting example of how digital innovation can support broadening widening participation projects to pupils residing outside of the major population centres across Scotland.