Charity offers to bridge the gap

Students moving from further to higher education will be given extra support with the launch in Scotland last week of the Helena Kennedy Foundation.

The charity was founded in 1998 by Ann Limb, who was an FE principal and until recently chief executive of the University for Industry south of the border. It is named after Baroness Helena Kennedy and aims to support the recommendations of her influential report, Learning Works: Widening Participation in Further Education.

The report estimated there were 15 million adults of working age in the UK with no qualifications and the foundation targets "second-chance" students in particular. Students in their final year at college who hope to go on to university are eligible for a single bursary of pound;1,000 and to date more than 100 have been awarded.

But there is considerable unmet demand and the foundation has more than 1,000 enquiries a year.

The extension of its work to Scotland was marked by the launch of three bursaries by Lady Kennedy at a Scottish Further Education Unit conference last Thursday, the theme of which was "equity, diversity and social justice". Colleges here will be asked to make donations, as more than 50 colleges do south of the border.

Helene Witcher, SFEU lead officer on equality and diversity, said "maximising opportunities to access education and training is central to the mission of Scotland's colleges".

Lady Kennedy said: "There still remain thousands of learners from the further education sector who want to go on to higher education and who need extra support to help them overcome huge barriers. Investing in the intangible - self-esteem and self-belief - is really what HKF is all about."

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