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New £150,000 project puts pupils ‘at the heart of research’

Press release issued: 31 January 2013

A pioneering project to get Bristol school children involved with university research has been given the go-ahead thanks to a £150,000 funding boost. The University of Bristol will join forces with over 20 local schools to motivate youngsters and excite them about the opportunities presented by higher education.

The University of Bristol will join forces with over 20 local schools to motivate youngsters and excite them about the opportunities presented by higher education.

It’s an initiative being funded by Research Councils UK (RCUK), which is investing £3.5 million in 12 unique projects across the country over a three year period.

Plans for the Bristol project include enabling school pupils to work alongside early-career academics as co-researchers, getting masters and PhD students to run activities for 11-year-olds and running a seminar series for sixth formers.

The aim is to motivate young people from a diverse range of backgrounds, exciting them about the world of research and encouraging them to raise their aspirations for further study.

Maggie Leggett, Head of Public Engagement, Marketing & Communications, University of Bristol, said: “The exciting thing for me about this bid is that it is a genuine partnership with the schools involved. Our partner schools came up with some really ambitious ideas that will put their students into the heart of the research process, giving them a hands-on understanding of what research is and open their minds to where further study can lead.

“There will be a whole host of opportunities for our researchers to get involved with too, and I’m looking forward to working with academics across the University as part of the project.”

Backwell School and the Cabot Learning Federation are leading the project locally and will directly involve over 20 schools thanks to existing alliances. It’s hoped the project will reach more schools once it’s underway.

Claire Carter, Assistant Head Teacher at the Cabot Learning Federation, said: “This is a really exciting opportunity for our pupils that builds upon the excellent relationships we already enjoy with universities in this region. There is potential for our pupils to shape opportunities that they are involved with, and giving them control should stimulate the interest and imagination of students who may never have thought that further study was for them.”

The School-University Partnership Initiative (SUPI) is backed by the Government, which wants to see pupils from all backgrounds engaging with researcher at top universities.

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said: “Maintaining a good supply of scientists and researchers is vital to our economy and society, but to do this we need to draw talent from as wide a pool as possible. That is why the School-University Partnerships Initiative is so important. It will help to encourage young people from all backgrounds to pursue a career in research by connecting them with the UK's world-class academic community.”

Further information

Read the blog post about SUPI and background to the initiative.

The School-University Partnership Initiative builds on the success of the Beacons for Public Engagement and Public Engagement with Research Catalysts, and RCUK’s commitment to public engagement as set out in the Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research.

Research Councils UK (RCUK) is the strategic partnership of the UK's seven Research Councils who annually invest around £3 billion in research. We support excellent research, as judged by peer review, that has an impact on the growth, prosperity and wellbeing of the UK. To maintain the UK’s global research position we offer a diverse range of funding opportunities, foster international collaborations and provide access to the best facilities and infrastructure around the world. We also support the training and career development of researchers and work with them to inspire young people and engage the wider public with research. To maximise the impact of research on economic growth and societal wellbeing we work in partnership with other research funders including the Technology Strategy Board, the UK Higher Education funding bodies, business, government, and charitable organisations.

The seven UK Research Councils are:

  • Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
  • Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
  • Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC)
  • Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
  • Medical Research Council (MRC)
  • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
  • Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC)
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