The scheme is now looking to recruit around 5,500 university students from September to mentor over 21,000 school pupils in a drive to widen participation in higher education (HE). All Aimhigher partnerships have also been asked to submit proposals for local projects using £21 million of funding announced last year.
Aimhigher Associates is the first scheme of its kind to build long term links between undergraduates and school/college students from disadvantaged backgrounds to help raise educational aspirations. Undergraduates will be recruited to become Associates, using their personal experience to encourage and support pupils as young as 13 to make the most of their talents.
David Lammy said:
'We have invested £21 million in supporting Aimhigher Associates so that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds can meet with mentors who can give them a better understanding of what university is like, and guide them through the application process. This has already proved to be a very worthwhile scheme.
'Over half of people from all social groups aspire to go to university and we remain committed to increasing the number of people from all backgrounds who do go.
'It has never been more important to get more young people from challenging backgrounds. During an economic downturn we must focus on training our upcoming workforce, giving them the skills that will be so vital in building up our economy for the future.'
The national roll-out of the programme in September follows 17 pilot projects involving 77 higher education institutions (HEIs), 7,227 learners and 1,380 Associates. Last year DIUS announced total funding of £21 million over three years to support Aimhigher Associates.
The funding for the Aimhigher Associates scheme will be directed through Aimhigher partnerships, which will work with schools, colleges and HEIs to broker relationships and co-ordinate the scheme.
Aimhigher Associates will provide support and encouragement to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds on both a one-to-one and group basis. It is planned that these relationships will develop over time, typically involving 15-20 sessions per Associate per year.
As far as possible, Aimhigher Associates will come from a similar school background to the pupils they are advising, and many will have had experience of the Aimhigher scheme themselves.
The Aimhigher Associates programme is part of a diverse range of targeted activities delivered by Aimhigher partnerships to help break down the barriers that can prevent pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds from progressing to HE.
Jointly funded by HEFCE and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), the Aimhigher programme is a national initiative to increase participation in HE by under-represented groups, particularly young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
The Aimhigher programme was originally established as Excellence Challenge in 2001 and was then integrated with the widening participation programme Aimhigher: Partnerships for Progression in August 2004. Since then the Aimhigher project has sought to deliver a coherent national outreach programme across the country and funding is secured until 2011.