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University Welcomes £700K Funding Boost for Access Initiative

8 June 2012

Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen  Farry has announced a £700,000 extension of funding for the University of Ulster's Step-Up  initiative. The news came as he visited a Science Fair at the University's Jordanstown campus,

The Step Up programme provides new learning opportunities in science  for talented young people to raise pupil aspirations and academic  performance thereby enabling them to progress to Higher Education.

The Minister said: “Over the years the Step-Up programme has become  extremely successful in engaging with both primary and post-primary  school pupils. It encourages pupils to study science and related  subjects and also assists students, who might never otherwise have  considered Higher Education as an option, to raise their aspirations and  educational attainment in order to progress to Higher Education  programmes.

“It is with this knowledge that I can announce an extension of  funding for the Belfast Step-Up programme to the value of £700,000. This  will extend funding for the programme up to the end of academic year  2015/16.”

Welcoming the Minister's announcement, Sylvia Alexander, Director of Access and Distributed Learning at the  University of Ulster said: "The University of Ulster is very committed to opening up  educational pathways, particularly for those people from disadvantaged  communities that traditionally have tended to shy away from university,  and is proud of its widening access activity across all its campuses. We  believe it is a great springboard for students who will make a  significant contribution to the development of the economy."

The Science Fair offered pupils an opportunity to showcase their  science research projects to their peers and subject experts from across  Northern Ireland. Individual prizes were awarded to winning team  members, with £500 Science equipment being awarded to the top primary  and post-primary school.

At the event the Minister discussed the science research projects  with the pupils and praised their achievements. He also paid tribute to parents, industry leaders and educationalists for their  support of the Step-Up initiative and commended the University on the  outstanding success of the programme.

The Department for Employment and Learning is currently leading on  the development of an integrated Regional Strategy for Widening  Participation in Higher Education.

The Minister concluded: “Widening participation in Higher Education  by students from under-represented groups is one of my Department's key  strategic goals. People who are most able but least likely to  participate in higher education must be given every encouragement and  support to achieve the necessary qualifications to apply to, and to  benefit from higher education irrespective of their personal or social  background.

"Step-Up is consistent with my Department’s strategy for  widening participation and contributes significantly to the effective  delivery of its widening participation objectives.”