As we emerge from the pandemic, student enrichment is needed more than ever

6 Nov 2021, 10:14

To secure better funding for enrichment we need more robust evidence of its impact, writes Eddie Playfair

Students’ experience of college is so much more than just the courses they study. Colleges provide a hugely comprehensive range of additional opportunities which support student development in all sorts of ways.

These are often labelled “enrichment” and they aim to prepare students for progression, citizenship and employment and to support their wellbeing and develop their skills.

In the context of the Covid pandemic these opportunities have never been more necessary.

Despite the positive impact that enrichment can have, tangible outcomes are often more difficult to measure, and it can be hard to justify funding for these activities.

The Association of Colleges, working with NCFE and the University of Derby, is currently conducting a longitudinal study into college enrichment,

It’s to understand the relative impact of enrichment programmes on the lives of students, to evaluate the benefits of different models and to share this knowledge across the sector.

An AoC survey from 2019 asked colleges about their existing enrichment offers and showed a high level of commitment and breadth of activity, with many collaborating with external partners to design engaging programmes.

While some colleges had very broad enrichment offers, the overall picture was mixed.

The overall picture was very mixed

Without earmarked funding or structured models to support the work, some colleges struggle to deliver a full and effective enrichment programme for their students.

Part of the reason the outcomes can be difficult to measure is the sheer broadness of the activities. Anything from sport and fitness, creative and performing arts, campaigning and advocacy, or enterprise and economic literacy, comes under the enrichment umbrella.

There are also several reasons why colleges choose to embed enrichment into their offer for students.

Some offer voluntary activities that students choose to engage in, while others provide an entitlement, essentially a menu from which everyone must choose something.

Then there are the reasons behind the offer: some provide an opportunity to extend and deepen a student’s awareness, understanding or experience.

While others extend students’ horizons and allow them to explore their own interests and aspirations as well as develop new skills.

This ongoing research will build a stronger case for increased public funding for enrichment, understanding more about what works, and will use this to shape learning that makes a positive impact on people’s lives.

This ongoing research will build a stronger case for increased public funding for enrichment,

To secure better funding for enrichment we need to have more robust evidence of its impact, so that it is not seen as a “nice to have” element but recognised as a crucial contributor to student development.  

We currently have responses from 84 colleges across England but we are keen to broaden the range of institutions involved; this could include GCFE, sixth-form colleges or specialist colleges.

The broader the evidence the base, the stronger our argument will be and will ultimately cement enrichment as core part of the educational experience in the new normal.

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