Third International Conference on the Teaching of Psychology
Joy Coogan and Chris Pawson, University of East London, UK


The presentation reports on an evaluation of an initiative to widen access to psychology Higher Education (HE) in an area of the U.K. in which participation has been traditionally very low. The initiative was to introduce a pre-entry year programme (level 0) for those students who had not met the entry criteria for entry at the typical level 1 entry point. These students were either school leavers or mature students who did not quite make the grades or have the necessary experience and, prior to the inception of the level 0 programme, would have been rejected or encouraged to gain experience via short courses. Level 0 programmes give students the opportunity to study psychology at an initially slower pace, and offer assessment methods that do not presume any pre-existing academic skills set amongst the students. Therefore, the level 0 programme allows students for whom access to higher education was previously blocked, or meant a long and uncertain route, to enter University culture and pursue their chosen degree faster.

The first and second cohorts of students to enter the level 0 progamme have now reached levels 1 and 2 of their degrees and are working alongside students that were recruited with traditional qualifications or relevant experience. A tracking exercise was conducted to assess how the students who started their degree from the level 0 programme compare with other students on the course. Students performance on a variety of forms of assessment from all undergraduate modules were compared.

This was done in two ways:

1) The author compared the level 0 cohort with the 'traditional entry' students in their current year. The level 0 entry students were matched to the age and gender of the comparison group from their year.

2) The author compared the level 0 cohort with the records of students who were initially rejected but accepted from the short-course routes (pre-level 0 inception) as this would have been the only way that they may have gained access to the degree in previous years. The level 0 students were matched on age, gender and qualifications to the short-course students.

In order for the level 0 programme to be deemed successful, the students starting their degree from this point, should be performing as well as those students who entered the degree through more traditional routes. The results of the evaluation reveal that there are no significant differences between the performance of the level 0 students and that of their peers from traditional entry routes. Furthermore, a number of level 0 entry students consistently perform above the 90th percentile of the entire year cohort. The reported evaluation has established the utility of the programme in meeting its objective of successfully widening participation.

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© 2008 Victor Karandashev