The Centre for HE STEM Access and Civil Society

In late 2011 the National HE STEM Programme (www.hestem.ac.uk) released funding for a national widening participation project coordinated by the South West Spoke of the programme (based at the University of Bath www.hestem-sw.org.uk). The project, which is being sustained into the 2012-2013 academic year, had the following aim:

To form a strategic, distinctive national community of practice between HEIs and third sector organizations, and to instigate associated regional communities, in order to share, develop and disseminate good practice in targeting and supporting under-represented groups to aspire to HE STEM study.

The project made significant progress in identifying how collaboration between third sector/civil society organisations and higher education institutions (HEIs) can add value to work to widen access to HE STEM subjects and do things that it may not be possible for HEIs to do alone. For this potential to be realised a vehicle would be required to facilitate those working on HE STEM access from across sectors to link together to develop collaborative opportunities and form what could be described as an effective ‘community of practice’. AccessHE, a charity that focuses on enhancing social mobility through higher education, and the University of Bath have launched a new Centre for HE STEM access and Civil Society.

Activities for 2012-13:

  • A series of projects in five different areas that aim to initiate communities of practice at regional level
  • A digital hub bringing together resources in HE STEM access work/examples of best practice in the delivery of such activity and acting as a mechanism to connect those interested in the field
  • A National forum which will bring together key stakeholders from HE, STEM, civil society and schools/colleges to establish the strategic agenda for this work and inform the activities of the centre
  • A seminar programme to enable those working on HE STEM progression to link with each other and other key stakeholders, in particular funders and policymakers


  • Establish the nature of the added value to HE STEM access of HEI:Civil Society collaboration
  • Enable HEI:Civil Society collaboration by supporting communication by practitioners and engagement from policymakers/funders
  • Identify the role and purpose of the Centre and secure its sustainability

This work will be central to ensuring the sustainability and legacy of the widening participation theme of the National HE STEM Programme.