Widening participation

We identify and attract the most talented students to Manchester, regardless of their backgrounds.

A key ambition for teaching, learning and the student experience is for there to be no barriers to studying and no boundaries to learning.

What is widening participation?

Widening participation addresses patterns of underrepresentation in higher education.

To do this, we target prospective students from groups that are currently underrepresented, including students:

  • from low-income backgrounds;
  • from areas where participation in higher education is low;
  • who are the first in their generation to consider higher education;
  • who attend schools and colleges where performance is below the national average;
  • who are care experienced;
  • who live with a disability;
  • who are young carers;
  • estranged from their families;
  • from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds;
  • from Gypsy, Roma or Traveller communities;
  • who are refugees or asylum seekers;
  • from military families.

Our research in Manchester’s Access and Participation plan (PDF, 665KB) shows no significant differences in the entry qualifications or the degree attained between students from widening participation backgrounds and the rest of the student population.

Get to know our students

Learn more about our students and how they have benefitted from our programmes.

Mandy, Article 26 Scholarship

My name is Mandy. I’m a third-year undergraduate student studying Sociology at The University of Manchester.

What support is available through the Scholarship?

The Scholarship covers my tuition fees and my living costs, including a set amount of monthly allowance and paid accommodation in University halls of residence of my choice.

I am also able to meet other students who benefit from the programme to discuss our experiences so far. These happen at regular meetings in face-to-face or on Zoom.

Why did you access this support?

Due to my immigration status in the UK, I had no choice but to consider applying for the programme because I was refused the tuition fee and maintenance loan by Student Finance England.

I was encouraged to apply for it by my family lawyer, and although it was rejected initially, I was later accepted onto the programme.

How did the initiative benefit you?

The programme gave me a great kick start into pursuing my academic and career goals because now I can say that I’m studying in one of the top universities in the UK, and without the scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to do this.

Do you feel initiatives like this are important?

Widening Participation initiatives like the Article 26 Scholarship programme are important because they encourage inclusiveness and diversity within higher education, allowing students of different immigration statuses’ who may not necessarily qualify for financial support for their studies to work towards their career aspirations.

It would be great if more programmes like this are put in place.

Abdullah, Manchester Access Programme

My name is Abdullah, I am a Mechanical Engineering student entering my final year of study. 

What support is available through the Programme?

Throughout my time on the Manchester Access Programme (MAP), I received assistance in the application process to university. This included things like workshops on personal statements and feedback on the drafts I had written.

I was also offered a 2-grade reduction on my entry offer that extended even after I had taken a gap year. In addition, MAP provided financial assistance with an annual £1,000 bursary.

Why did you access this support?

I applied for MAP after hearing about it from my college and from siblings who had previously participated in the Programme.

The primary reason that I accessed the support was to receive the bursary, as I had done well in school and wanted to attend university but wasn’t sure whether it would be financially possible.

How did this Programme benefit you?

Other than helping with the cost of studying, MAP benefitted me by teaching me valuable skills in workshops that I still use today.

For example, the referencing skills I learned on MAP are things I still refer to for my assignments today. It also exposed me to a lecture environment which helped me prepare for university before starting.

Finally, it made final exams in college more peaceful as I had a reduced offer ahead of me.

Do you feel initiatives like this are important?

I believe initiatives like MAP are important as they help to break down barriers for widening participation students who might be hesitant about higher education.

They make it more accessible with the events, open days and workshops where students are exposed to university.

Moreover, they lessen the financial burden of studying at university for those who may want to but are not able to.

Abi, Manchester Bursary

I'm Abi and I am a final year student studying Pharmacy.

I'm from Northampton but I like to call Manchester home now too. 

How did you access this support?

I was able to access the bursary by simply giving my permission to Student Finance England to share my financial information with the University.

This removed the burden of having to actively seek this form of support as the University made it clear that students who were eligible for the Bursary would be contacted automatically.

Typically, I found out that I had the Bursary in the first semester of each academic year via email.

How did the Bursary benefit you?

Being a recipient of the Manchester Bursary has allowed me to not let income be a hindrance to my ability to join societies and attend student events.

For example, I was able to afford trips and activities organised by the societies I joined which allowed me to make friends easily, especially in my first year.

The additional financial support also allowed me to be flexible in where I chose to do my placements as I was not forced to limit myself due to the cost of transport.

Moreover, with the Bursary, I have had reduced financial stress and I am given the opportunity to dedicate more of my free time to my education instead of part-time jobs.

Do you feel initiatives like this are important?

Widening participation initiatives like this are really important as they provide opportunities to students like me, that we wouldn’t have otherwise.

For many students, finance can be an obstacle to accessing higher education.

Therefore, an initiative like a Bursary can remove that obstacle and allow students to gain a better understanding of what options are available to them.