Chichester’s Pioneering Project Aiming to Inspire Universities to Create Opportunities for the Homeless

  • University project aiming to empower homeless people with the skills and confidence to start a degree
  • New toolkit launched to help other UK universities establish similar bridging programmes for disadvantaged people
  • Joint initiative with UPP Foundation has already helped 25 homeless people access higher education

A PIONEERING initiative between the University of Chichester and UPP Foundation in intending to encourage access to university for homeless students.

Since 2018, the West Sussex institution, funded by UPP, has developed the project which enables access to higher education for those who have faced homelessness. The Adversity to University programme is a 12-week course where the students – who live in or have been supported by local homeless shelter Stonepillow – develop academic and critical thinking skills.

If students successfully complete the course and dissertation, they can then go on and study for a degree at the University. In three years, 25 people have completed the module, with six students then taking a qualification in maths or English to further their skills, and five others undertaking a full degree.

Lucy (below) who had struggled with homelessness since she was 16, completed the bridging module in 2019 and now, aged 30, is in the third year of her Fine Art degree.

Lucy D

She said: “The bridging course gave me something to focus on, it gave structure and meaning in my life that I had lost altogether. I discovered the joys of research, essay writing and academia. The course gave so much more than that too, it gave companionship of likeminded individuals, the drive and belief that I could do anything I put my mind to and hope for the future. It, quite literally, transformed my life.”

To mark the impact of the project to date, a toolkit has been published as a guide to other higher education institutions looking to establish projects to help more students like Lucy.  Despite action to prevent homelessness during the pandemic, more than 68,000 households became homeless or were threatened with homelessness in the first quarter of 2021.

The toolkit provides information to universities in a practical way on how they can establish a similar course to unlock a path to higher education for homeless people in their towns and cities.  The toolkit provides guidance on how to set up the course, its content and structure, common challenges and tips for sustainable funding.

Social work lecturer Becky Edwards, responsible for the project

Becky Edwards (above), a senior lecturer at the University of Chichester who leads the project, said: “Some of the most able people in the UK are living in poverty both economically and aspirationally. They have not been privileged enough, lucky enough or supported enough to access a good education. Going to university is something they have never considered. This project gives them a second chance and proves the power of education to transform lives and re-shape futures.”

The UPP Foundation was created in 2016 by University Partnerships Programme (UPP), the leading provider of on campus student accommodation infrastructure and support services in the UK.  It is a registered charity that offers grants to universities, charities and other higher education bodies.

Richard Brabner, Director of UPP Foundation said: “This project just proves what a difference can be made, with a relatively small amount of funding if it is the right idea and the right partnership. With the Government’s plans for a Lifetime Loan Entitlement and the revitalisation of the civic role of universities in recent years, there’s no better time for higher education institutions to set up similar schemes in their local communities.”

For more about the pioneering Adversity to University project go to www.chi.ac.uk/bridging-course.

Read the toolkit in full at upp-foundation.org.

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