Development & Alumni Relations Office 



QUEEN’S WIDENING PARTICIPATION UNIT REACHES NEARLY 300 PUPILS DURING LOCKDOWNPathway Opportunity Programme students in front of Lanyon Building

13 August 2020

The Widening Participation Unit (WPU) at Queen’s has, since spring 2020, reached nearly 300 pupils across Northern Ireland through its Pathway Opportunity and Senior Academy Programmes.

In spite of lockdown and restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the programmes were successfully delivered online by the WPU team and a number of academic Schools. Between the Pathway Opportunity and Senior Academy Programmes, Queen’s WPU is currently engaging with over 286 young people.  

WPU is committed to ensuring that those most able but least likely to participate in Higher Education should have an equal opportunity to do so.

Ted Jensen, Pathway Opportunity Programme Manager said:

“We have been very encouraged by the level of sustained engagement between Queen’s and the WP young people, in spite of lockdown and the all the subsequent upheaval of quickly moving the programmes online.

“As a team, we are particularly grateful to the University’s Schools and academics who supported the programmes at a time when there were other pressures in preparing for 2020-2021.

“As well as strong and continued engagement, we also received excellent feedback from the young people – a testament to the dedication shown by staff across Queen’s to this important work.”

The Pathway Opportunity Programme (POP) is a two-year programme which provides a route for talented young people who have the desire and ambition to study at Queen’s but may require additional support and encouragement to reach their full potential.

The programme has now been delivered to 240 pupils this year using both Free Canvas and Microsoft Teams. All pupils were able to take part in a week-long programme which included an innovative mix of activities from academics and employers.

One of this year’s Pathway Opportunity Programme participants said:

“The Pathway summer school was an amazing experience that has made me very excited to experience university life and hopefully it will be at Queen’s University as I’ve enjoyed getting to know more about it through all the activities.

“The academic guides were amazing throughout the week to help us do our on-line group tutorials after each lecture. I am very grateful for all the support especially during this difficult time!” 

The Queen's Senior Academy is a two-year programme supporting Year 13/Year 14 participants in non-selective secondary schools and further education colleges to develop their potential to progress to Higher Education. It is currently underway with 46 pupils, with staff across the University allocating time and creativity.

Pupils engage in project work that is developing a range of skills that will benefit them for the future.

A 2020 Senior Academy participant said:

“I've really enjoyed how versatile the programme has been so far…and how you get to have fun whilst learning.”

Established in 2013, the WPU at Queen’s comprises the Junior Academy, the Senior Academy and, more recently, the Pathway Opportunity Programme.

Widening Participation students include young people who are in secondary education and colleges, students who have disabilities, care leavers or adult learners.

WPU works with a wide range of young people, teachers, schools, colleges and parents to raise the profile of opportunities open to those who want to achieve academic success. Further information on the work of WPU can be found here

To support Widening Participation at Queen’s visit the Development and Alumni Relations Office website or contact Aoife McNabb, Development Manager, Student Plus, telephone +44 (0)28 9097 5289. 

Media enquiries should be addressed to the Communications Officer at Queen’s University Belfast, telephone: +44 (0)28 9097 3091.

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