How Students With a Background of Care or Family Estrangement at UWE Bristol Benefitted From Pagoda Projects’ Sustainable Global Experience™ Programme
Sustainable Global Experience™ (SGE) is a short-term mobility programme providing long-term benefits for students around the world. In May 2023, 24 students from the University of the West of England (UWE) Bristol with a background of care or family estrangement took part in the programme.
Why Care-Experienced or Estranged Students?
According to the 2020 Unite Foundation report, care-experienced students are more likely to share characteristics associated with educational disadvantage either before or during higher education. They are more likely to be older, disabled, from minority ethnic communities and holding a nationality other than British. They are also more likely to have lower and non-traditional entry qualifications and to have entered their last course from a sub-degree course (e.g. foundation degree/diploma). It can perhaps be expected then that access, continuation and attainment rates are, according to the OfS in 2020, lower for care-experienced students than for not care-experienced students, with similar outcomes for estranged students. With respect to progression, the outcomes show a slight (0.4%) advantage for care-experienced students, leading to some doubts over the reliability of the data (pp10,24). Effective practice advice by the OfS is that “Providers should focus their efforts across each stage of the lifecycle” in support of these student groups.
The UWE-Pagoda Partnership
Pagoda Projects first teamed up with UWE Bristol in 2019 to provide global internships for their students in Vietnam and Taipei. After moving online during the pandemic, we ran a one-week global experience in Berlin in the Summer of 2022 for 27 widening participation students. This programme was funded by UWE Bristol central Access & Participation funding as well as an Employability Bursary. UWE Cares supports UK undergraduate students who are care leavers, estranged students or carers(1). UWE Cares works with UWE Go Global to provide its target student groups with opportunities for global experience as part of their courses. This commitment reflects UWE Bristol’s engagement with the Universities UK International’s three-year-long Go International: Stand Out campaign and adoption of the Campaign’s principles for UK universities to increase and diversify the number of students who study, work or volunteer as part of their university. UWE Bristol is committed to:
- Embedding outward mobility in the UWE Bristol Careers and Enterprise plan
- Offering bursaries to students from disadvantaged groups
- Diversifying their mobility offer to engage more students by developing short-term activities.
UWE Cares’ students are invited to apply for the University’s Go Global offer comprising a wide range of global mobility opportunities coordinated by the Careers and Enterprise Team. UWE Cares’ research found that cost, lack of connections and having to commit to time away were perceived as barriers for the students they supported. For this reason, the Team particularly wanted to provide short mobility specifically tailored to these students as well as funding to cover their costs.
Anecdotal evidence from the Berlin Programme found that students had reported a greater feeling of belonging at UWE Bristol, greater confidence in their own abilities and increased resilience by the end of the Programme. Several students who took part in 2022 had also gone on to apply for longer mobilities in 2023, including those who had never been outside the UK previously. This reflects the findings from UUKi’s Report on shorter mobilities providing tangible benefits for students from widening participation groups. After this initial success, the University decided to continue our partnership into Summer 2023, this time running our Sustainable Global Experience™ (SGE) programme.
SGE: The Programme
Sustainable Global Experience™ is an innovative and inclusive programme with Carbon Literacy at its core. The two-week programme aims to make climate education a possibility for every student. Shorter in length, closer to home and more affordable than your typical international mobility, SGE is designed to appeal to a wider range of students – particularly those with additional needs or from widening participation backgrounds. This programme was funded by UWE’s academic colleges (faculties) and the University’s Access and Participation Plan commitments. Alongside this, the University offers an Employability Bursary to ensure cost isn’t a barrier to students from lower-income households and provides a UWE Cares Bursary which supports students with an annual financial top-up and sum to launch their graduate career.
Amsterdam: The Experience
Students completed 12 hours of Carbon Literacy Training, accredited by Manchester’s Carbon Literacy Project, before embarking on a five-day field trip to see sustainable development practices in action. Embracing slow travel and carbon-conscious principles, the students travelled to Amsterdam via Eurostar, stayed for five nights in hostel accommodation and were encouraged to eat food with a low carbon footprint.
Activities for the week were structured around Amsterdam’s efforts to localise and implement the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). From exploring clean technologies such as hydroponics at De Ceuvel to presenting circular approaches to sustainability at Metabolic, students were encouraged to explore sustainability in theory and practice. The group met with a variety of companies, NGOs, restaurants and museums working hard to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030. The students worked on group projects throughout the week. They evaluated the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policies of a company of their choice, presenting their findings to the rest of the group.
The results below summarise the feedback from all of the participants (14 out of 24) who had responded at the time of publication.
Sustainability & Carbon Literacy
The programme has made me reflect on ways that my discipline could contribute to a sustainable future
The programme has made me more motivated about taking action to tackle climate change
The programme taught me new ways to reduce my carbon footprint
The programme inspired me to work for/with sustainable organisations in the future
Core Competency Improvements
These eight Core Competencies have been developed in line with published research on work-integrated learning, contemporary employer data reports, and direct feedback from Pagoda’s own industry partners.
The programme boosted my confidence
The programme made me feel more confident in my ability to interact with others
The programme inspired me to explore more international opportunities in the future
The programme had a positive impact on my career readiness
The programme made me feel more confident about my future after graduation
Students were highly satisfied with the programme and found it enormously beneficial: they were very positive in terms of its impact on their engagement with carbon literacy and sustainability (Table 1), their employability and career readiness (Table 2) and personal growth (Table 3). In line with published research into the impact of short-term mobilities on under-represented and disadvantaged students, the programme inspired many students to explore further international opportunities and to grow in confidence, including in relation to their post-graduation futures. In fact, 93% of participants said that the programme had had a positive impact on their mental health.
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The programme also brought a wider benefit to the University as it was perceived to have had a positive or strongly positive impact on their overall university experience.
Qualitative Student Feedback
“Amsterdam really leads the way in how it’s managing social change and the mechanisms of how to make a sustainable city work.”
“I really enjoyed building relationships with other people on the course and spending lots of time together. Especially on the scavenger hunt, because we experienced the whole of Amsterdam in about four hours.”
“I really enjoyed meeting the New Economy consultancy. This made it very clear that it’s a job I want to do in the future. I’ve already had a chat with them about what qualifications I need to hopefully get a job with them in a few years’ time.”
“It’s so incredibly useful to interact and engage with these opportunities. For the skills you gain, putting yourself into new situations so you can meet your edge and your boundary and surpass it – to become a better version of yourself.”
“Whilst I felt like I was being really sustainable in a lot of ways, it shows me there’s more I can still be doing. I can be pushing for other people and for governments. I can do things that make a huge difference without drastically changing my lifestyle.”
“I would recommend it to every student I come across. For me, it was just taking that leap. If you get the opportunity to do something like this. Go for it, 100%. It’s a life experience.”
Last month, we explored the role of short-term mobilities(2) in enhancing graduate outcomes for widening participation and under-represented groups at UK universities. Read the full article.
The images used in this article are from a different 2023 SGE programme. These images are used to protect the identity of students. All UWE student and staff testimonials are legitimate and have been confirmed by UWE-Bristol.
1. The UWE Cares team sits within the Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity Team at the University of the West of England. It is focused on delivering support to students in the following groups:
- Care leavers or care experienced: students who have lived in supported housing, local authority or foster care for any duration before they turned 18, including students who came to the UK as unaccompanied asylum seekers;
- Permanently estranged: students who have permanently separated from both parents or if both a student’s parents are deceased, and the student is under 25 at the start of their course;
Student carers: students who provide regular, ongoing and unpaid care to an ill or disabled family member, cohabiting partner, friend or neighbour. Parents are not included in this definition unless their child is ill or disabled.
2. Defined as experiences abroad that last less than an academic term and typically between one week and two months (https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/sites/default/files/uploads/UUKi%20reports/Short-term-mobility-long-term-impact-report.pdf, p1).