HEFCE Consortium Project to Widen Participation in Postgraduate Study

The project is designed to promote progression to postgraduate study for minority groups and those from disadvantaged areas.

At The University of Manchester Library a key ambition for teaching, learning and the student experience is for there to be no barriers to studying and no boundaries to learning so we were delighted to be recently given the opportunity to contribute towards a HEFCE funded project to widen access to postgraduate study.

Dr Nicola Grayson from the Library's Learning Development Team reveals how the Library played a key role.


Due to the impressive reputation of the My Learning Essentials team and our excellent resources, the Library was approached by the University’s Widening Participation and Recruitment team to contribute to a HEFCE funded project. The project is designed to promote progression to postgraduate study for minority groups and those from disadvantaged areas.

The project is led by the University of Leeds but includes: The University of Manchester, Newcastle University, The University of Sheffield, the University of Warwick, and the University of York and this blog post will detail how the University of Manchester Library was involved.

The project

The project has two strands:

  • The delivery of face-to-face skills support to third year undergraduate students in Biology, Economics and English to encourage progression to postgraduate study.
  • The development of an online course targeted at offer holding postgraduate students who fall within the groups identified above.

A previous HEFCE project in 2014/15 called ‘Widening Access to Postgraduate Study and Fair Access to the Professions’ had found that master’s degrees could lead to higher earnings, provide access to certain professions and encourage and enable progression to postgraduate research.

The groups targeted by the current project have lower levels of take-up to postgraduate study and the limited research that’s available points to some influencing factors e.g. difficulty in the mastery of key skills or academic practices and the prevalence of processes that don’t take into account individual knowledge and skills.

The Library worked on both strands of the HEFCE project and members of staff from our Learning Development, Teaching and Learning, E-learning, Customer Service and Student teams were all involved in putting together the online and face-to-face support.

Face to face and online

We developed skills workshops that were tailored to studying biology, economics and English called ‘Think like a Postgrad’. These workshops focused on supporting students with the enhancement and development of reading, note-taking, academic writing and time-management skills.

The online course, called ‘Prepare for Postgrad’, is comprised of a series of modules. Each institution worked on a separate module within set parameters so that when packaged together the modules formed one extended programme of support for offer holding postgraduate students.

The online course features introductory modules that were designed to welcome students and enable them to feel supported and prepared. It also includes personal effectiveness modules, that focus on managing time, building resilience and cultivating wellbeing, as well as academic confidence modules which detail how to take control of your learning, how to read effectively and how to write with confidence. The University of Manchester Library developed the writing with confidence module.


We had to align our module with the effective reading module and produce content suitable for postgraduate level study. We also had to ensure that we used a variety of different media (podcasts, quizzes and video) to engage the students and that no institution specific branding or references were included as the course needed to be appropriate for each of the participating institutions to host and run.

We organised our module to focus on assisting students with:

  • Breaking down the question and organising ideas
  • Developing effective writing habits
  • Developing writing confidence

It was a lot of work to put the face-to-face and online support together and we had to do so with a very quick turnaround time; all those who contributed to this project did so in addition to their normal daily duties.

However, it is important that we at the Library continue to demonstrate our value as a centre for pedagogical expertise and the area of widening access to postgraduate study for any and all students is a worthy area in which to make a positive contribution to further research and promote inclusion.

Dr Nicola Grayson - Learning Development Team