Director of Fair Access praises Birkbeck’s widening access initiatives

Professor Les Ebdon met with students and staff from Birkbeck’s widening access team on a visit to the College.

Pictured: Birkbeck's Widening Access Team with student Jamal (2nd from left), Professor Ebdon (4th from left) and Professor Latchman (5th from left)

On Tuesday 11 July, Professor Les Ebdon, Director of the Office for Fair Access visited Birkbeck, where he met with the Master, Professor David Latchman, the Widening Access Team, and students and prospective students who have benefited from Birkbeck’s outreach programmes.

During the visit, Professors Ebdon and Latchman discussed Birkbeck’s continued role in promoting and supporting mature students into study, at a time when numbers are in crisis. Birkbeck’s Access Agreement was also discussed, along with its innovative three-year full-time evening degrees, the new part-time maintenance loans and the creation of the new Office for Students (OfS). Professor Latchman said: “We were delighted to welcome Professor Ebdon to Birkbeck to hear first-hand from some of our students about the power of our outreach programmes, without which they may never have made the leap into higher education. It is pleasing that the Office for Fair Access and policy-makers continue to recognise the importance of this type of work in making the life-transforming benefits of university study available to all. The part-time maintenance loans being introduced in 2018-19 are a step in the right direction; however, further support is required for part-time students to ensure that they are able to complete their degree study successfully, alongside managing other areas of their lives.”

Students and prospective students who were introduced to Birkbeck via the College’s outreach programmes also met with Professor Ebdon and shared their experiences with him. They told him about the importance of being able to speak directly to an advisor within the Widening Access team, to find out about the ways they can finance their study and be reassured about the practicalities of combining work, family and study.

Professor Ebdon said: “The experiences of the students who I met with today exemplify perfectly why tailored and individual pre-entry advice and guidance is so important for mature students and those who face additional challenges to completing successful degree study – such as combining it with family life, work or who have spent many years outside of the formal education system. These students are inspirational in their commitment to building a better future for themselves and their families through the opportunities that Birkbeck offers and I am delighted to have had the opportunity to meet with them.”


Jamal is studying BSc Economics and Business, part-time, at Birkbeck. He attended Get Started, an outreach programme comprising three interactive workshops, designed to support mature learners with their application to university. Jamal said that, before attending, he was nervous about going to university and wasn’t sure if he was too old. After attending Get Started, he saw the makeup of a typical Birkbeck classroom and was pleasantly surprised.  “I was surrounded by people of all ages and backgrounds. The atmosphere was great, and the facilitators really understood and alleviated our concerns – I applied the next day!”