Aimhigher Plus: Stakeholder project

What has been the impact of the Uni Connect programme across the West Midlands partnership on participating students, teachers and institutions?

Students at University


Professor Rob SmithDr Amanda French and Dr Georgina Garbett

Research background

The Aimhigher West Midlands Partnership 

The Uni Connect programme in the West Midlands is run by Aimhigher West Midlands and has been funded by its university members since 2009. Uni Connect is available to students in year 9 to year 13 who live in specific postcode areas. It has a strong reputation across the region for providing quality, impartial information, advice and guidance. 

Aimhigher West Midlands is a partnership of universities in the West Midlands, working to support learners to make informed decisions about their future. The Aimhigher Plus initiative builds on this and by bringing colleges into the partnership aims to strengthen the drive to widen participation in higher education in the region. The programme specifically targets schools and students who come from backgrounds that are under-represented on HE courses: hence there is a focus on white students from working class and low-income backgrounds and students from different minoritised ethnic groups. Originally, Uni Connect’ s main goal was to increase the progression to HE of underrepresented learners. However, as of August 2022, raising attainment has become one of their priorities as well.

This project aims to explore the interconnected relationships between different stakeholders in Aim Higher Plus such as: teachers, managers, and pupils who interact with and hopefully benefit from the programme’s activities. The research will enable us to gather stories which help illuminate the positive impact of the Aimhigher Plus initiative as delivered by the West Midlands Partnership activities on pupils’ perspectives on and aspirations for higher education and other post school pathways.

Research aims

The research will provide an overview of the partnership before drilling down for finer detail. The aim is to capture the qualities of the interconnected relationships between different stakeholders that, interact with each other to bring about impact from the project.

The overarching research question is: What has been the impact of the Uni Connect programme across the West Midlands partnership on participating students, teachers and institutions?

Research methods

To gather evidence of impact, the design would utilise a qualitative approach. We would seek the views of different stakeholders through focus groups.

We aim to gather stories from individual teachers and pupils relating to the impact of the Aim Higher Plus project to explore how the aspirations and sense of future options for young people have changed because of their experiences on the programme. As we believe form tutors and Heads of Year are best positioned to provide a clear perspective on impact we will also be asking them to provide evidence in the form of stories and examples that illustrate the changes brought about by young people’s involvement with Aimhigher.

The focus groups (and some interviews) will take place either face to face or online in different schools and colleges across the region.

Project outcomes

The aim is to produce an independent report show casing and analysing the stories gathered as part of the project.


Funder: Uni Connect West Midlands
Total grant: £10,000
Funding period: 6 months