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At Ulster University, the mission of Schools Outreach is to diversify the student body at Ulster by empowering and supporting prospective students from underrepresented backgrounds to access university, regulated by the Widening Access and Participation (WAP) Plan.

This is achieved primarily by working in collaboration with Schools, Principal Forums, Learning Communities and community organisations, alongside Faculty colleagues across the University to co-design a diverse range of programmes and events, with the aim of promoting fair access to education and sustained widening participation across all campuses and faculties of the University.

Ulster University Schools Outreach Academy:

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way in which Schools Outreach operates and in response to this, it has transformed traditional face to face engagement, on campus or in schools, to support prospective students, pupils and applicants via online delivery at both pre- and post-16 education level.

In support of this, Schools Outreach has adapted and created the  ‘Ulster University Schools Outreach Academy’.  This online outreach has been launched to allow us to continue to offer interactive workshops, lectures and seminars, to develop materials to ensure accessibility to our school communities in collaboration with teachers and schools.

The Academy has 4 key aims:

  • ‘Progression’:

Supporting Year 13 &14 across to HE, harnessing expectations, motivations, readiness and vision of University Life, alongside curriculum aligned programmes for A Level/BTEC Level3.

  • ‘Making Informed Decisions’:

Research has indicated that educational interventions with 14-year olds are more likely to positively impact on aspiration and educational engagement. Hence, rigorous development of programmes facing Year 10 to enable pathways to progression from GCSE/BTEC, to A’ Level/HND or alternative opportunities.

  • Partnership’:

Partnerships developed across education and industry, continue to collaborate across schools’ outreach, within the Academy, such as Manchester United Foundation, Belfast Giants, Chartered Accountants Ireland, Business in the Community and Micro:bit Education Foundation. These partnerships equip pupils with the diversity of the industry specialists alongside the educational pathways provided by the Schools Outreach service.

  • ‘Student Advocates’:

Across Schools Outreach, we embed ‘Student advocates’ from the current student body to offer support and endorse their Ulster University experience.

Lorraine Lavery-Bowen, School Partnerships Manager – Widening Access, explains:

“This increase in eLearning since the outbreak of COVID-19 and move to remote learning has mirrored the need within schools for our support to be provided in a digital format. The recent launch of the Schools Outreach Academy will allow us to offer a full online approach to school engagement and service delivery.

“We have just launched the first Schools Outreach Academy Prospectus 2020/21, and are offering over 40 online courses for pupils (age 12-18 years), with courses developed for both synchronous and asynchronous learning.”

How is the programme delivered?

The Schools Outreach Academy’s online programme is delivered on Open Education by Blackboard, which is an open source platform with no additional cost or technology requirements other than a web browser to the pupils/schools.

On completion of each online course, each pupil will be awarded Ulster University Certificates and recognised as an Ulster University Academy Scholar.

Enrolments on programme:

From the last four months, the Schools Outreach Academy currently has 2500+ enrolments across 69 schools in Northern Ireland, and has also seen enrolments coming from across the UK and Ireland as well as many international countries, such as China, Nigeria, Peru, India, USA, Russia, Chile and Pakistan.

View theSchools Outreach Academy 2020/21 prospectus.

Further information can be found on the Schools Outreach Academy website, or you can email