Peterborough job seekers given chance to study free Cambridge University courses

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Peterborough job seekers are being the chance to study University of Cambridge courses for free thanks to a new bursery.

The newly-launched ‘New Horizons Bursaries’ will cover the full cost of tuition fees for both short and online courses at the Institute of Continuing Education (ICE) – a part of the University which provides a wide range of courses for adults.

The initiative is part of the New Horizons Project, which was started in 2017 by the CHS Group, a charitable housing association, to support people in Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and West Norfolk who are not in work. The project is funded by the European Social Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund. Its clients – many of whom come from some of the most deprived parts of the region – often have significant amounts of debt, are struggling to make ends meet, or are considered to be at risk of social exclusion.

The bursaries are being launched this month and will allow people involved in the project to study subjects as diverse as science and medicine, business and management, creative writing, and history and politics, under the guidance of University of Cambridge academics and expert tutors. The aim is to give participants new skills and experiences that will not only strengthen their employability, but develop their self-confidence and sense of social connection.

Lynne McAulay, New Horizons project manager said: “We were really pleased to be approached by ICE to work with them.

“Many of our participants have not engaged with learning for a long time and some have had difficult experiences at school which have left them reluctant to go back into education. Part of the purpose of New Horizons is to open the door to learning for people who might think that it is not for them. The range of subjects and topics available is a powerful offer for our participants, many of whom have felt trapped by their circumstances for some time.”

The bursary programme is one of several that ICE has put in place to provide learning opportunities to adults who have not previously had access to higher education, and to help people to improve their career prospects. It emerged from existing links between the University of Cambridge and New Horizons, which is run in partnership with several different organisations, including the University’s Centre for Housing and Planning Research.

Places on the bursary scheme will only be open to existing New Horizons clients. The project currently supports more than 400 people across Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and West Norfolk, and coaches will be encouraged to recommend individuals who they think will benefit from the programme. They will also advise on the application process, on the learning format that might suit them best, and work closely with the team at ICE throughout to ensure that bursary recipients feel welcome and encouraged.

Students will be able to choose from classroom-based, face-to-face short courses, or online courses, depending on what suits them best. The options are being offered, in particular, to enable students from all over the region to benefit from the opportunity, even if they cannot regularly travel to ICE’s own base in Madingley, just outside Cambridge.

The Institute offers more than 250 courses in total, all on a part-time basis, which makes them accessible to students who have other commitments that preclude full-time study. Its short courses start at various times throughout the year and typically last between five and seven weeks.

Although part of the aim of the bursary programme is to provide students with a Cambridge-based educational experience that they can add to a CV, it also aims to strengthen both important transferrable skills – in areas such as independent learning and critical thinking – and to boost their self-confidence.

Dr James Gazzard, Director of the Institute of Continuing Education, said: “New Horizons’ reach and the important work that they do with disadvantaged groups, as well as other local stakeholders, means that we can work in partnership to provide these courses free of charge for adults from diverse backgrounds. This is a key part of ICE’s widening participation programme and our efforts to improve social mobility and educational opportunities for all adults, irrespective of their background.”

Many of ICE’s bursaries are, like the New Horizons project, run in partnership with other organisations who share its commitment to removing or reducing potential barriers to learning. The Institute is always interested to hear from new potential partners – especially in the Cambridge area and Eastern region – who can support the development programmes, either through funding or sponsorship, or by providing access to networks of people who could benefit from the bursaries themselves. Organisations and companies that are interested in partnering with ICE should email: partnerships@ice.acm.ac.uk