Opening the door to education

Widening Participation Programme

The Widening Participation programme at King’s College London aims to find the most promising students and encourage them to apply to study at King’s, and other top universities, regardless of their socioeconomic background. King’s innovative K+ scheme is a big part of this, helping more than 1,500 students gain access to university since it began in 2011, with 300 more due to join this year.

Two-thirds of schoolchildren have significant concerns about financing their studies at university, according to a recent Ipsos MORI poll. For prospective students at King’s, this anxiety is compounded by the cost of studying in London, which could prevent students from under-represented backgrounds applying to university in the capital.

King’s Widening Participation programme aims to combat these worrying trends by finding the most promising students and encouraging them to apply to study at King’s, regardless of their socioeconomic background. Currently, there is a real need to nurture the best talent and support young people’s access to higher education.

  • In a recent survey, 52% of King’s students stated that receiving a bursary from King’s was crucial in allowing them to study in London.
  • Each year, 3,000 state school pupils achieve top A-level grades but do not enrol at one of the UK’s 13 leading universities.
  • Only 1% of young refugees go to university, compared with 34% of young people around the world.
  • 33% of King’s undergraduates receive the King’s Living Bursary, which supports students with low household incomes.

Educating students about their future

K+ students being shown around King's

K+ students taking part in summer school

Widening Participation has a range of grants, scholarships, programmes and workshops available to help students with challenging backgrounds – including the K+ scheme, which is open to Year 12 and 13 students aged 16–18. So far, it has equipped over 1,500 students from under- represented groups with the knowledge, confidence and skills to transition successfully to university education.

There are seven key strands to the scheme, which includes academic, career, culture and higher education events, along with online mentoring. It continues with the Spotlight Summer School, which is a week of intensive study. The summer school gives students a taste of what university life might be like and helps them prepare for their university applications. This year, 280 students took part.

A student’s perspective

Neetu Singh

Neetu Singh

K+ student Neetu Singh, from Hackney in East London, talked to us about what inspired her to apply for the K+ programme, and her experiences when she attended the Spotlight Summer School in July 2017.

‘The K+ programme has made me feel much more comfortable about university. It’s so different to school. The environment feels less alien than before and now I’m definitely clearer about my plans, so it feels more achievable.

'I’m in the languages and literature stream, and during the summer school I’ve been learning how to analyse film, which is really interesting. I study English Literature at school but hadn’t really analysed something visually in the same way as I had textually.

'We’ve also been learning about writers like Virginia Woolf. We looked at Mrs Dalloway and read parts of the book and went to the places she described. We looked at London through her eyes. My love for literature has definitely widened after doing this course.

'We’ve learnt practical skills like note-taking, how to manage time, be organised, disciplined with revision, and not to panic about exams. A lot of learning at university is independent and if you’re able to learn those skills early then it makes your journey easier.

'Being part of the programme also gave me a chance to make friends and to learn soft skills, like social skills and networking. I’ve learnt just how important these are. A candidate from the TV show The Apprentice, Bianca Miller, came and talked to us about personal branding and knowing how to speak and present yourself both in academic life and in business. You wouldn’t get that sort of guidance at school.

K+ students in Trafalgar Square

Neetu and the rest of the 2017 Spotlight Summer School group

'The students on K+ are from different parts of London, so we didn’t know each other before we came here. Our group is mainly young women; a lot of us are from ethnic minorities and working-class families. I’ve met some really nice people – there’s a sense of engagement inside the lecture rooms and everyone shares the same passions and wants to do well, which is really powerful.

'Being part of this scheme has confirmed to me that I would love to go to university, 100%. I’m definitely going to apply to King’s because of the people, the buildings and the teaching. It seems like a good place to learn, but to socialise as well.’

Watch this short video of Neetu describing how the K+ programme has impacted her.

About Widening Participation and K+

Widening Participation supports students throughout their learning years. K+ is just one of the programmes on offer, and is specifically aimed at reaching 16–18 year olds from under- represented groups.

  • 78 Widening Participation students started courses at King’s in 2016.
  • 128 Widening Participation students gained a place at their first-choice institution.

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