Widening access to higher education has been a pillar of the Scottish Government’s policy since 2005 when the Scottish Funding Council published its strategy, Learning for All. Since then it has been widely acknowledged that in order to unearth and develop Scottish talent, a number of social and economic barriers must be overcome.
Prioritising a fully skilled and educated workforce means making sure that all young Scots, no matter what their financial means or social background, can have the opportunity to benefit from further or higher education. This makes sense for individuals but also for Scotland’s economy in the 21st century.
Putting these ideals into practice involves hard work from many agencies and through multiple initiatives. Here at The Trust we believe our partnership with The Robertson Trust is a valid contribution to helping widen access to higher education. By hosting the residential induction weekend for The Robertson Trust’s flagship Scholarship programme, we help equip more than 100 young Scots each year with the core skills they need to become more confident, effective and capable at university and, eventually, in the workplace.
As the largest independent grant-making trust in Scotland, The Robertson Trust is dedicated to achieving positive change in Scotland. Their Scholarship Bursary Award was set up in 1995 to help fund ten young Glaswegians and today helps more than 460 Robertson Scholars from across Scotland studying on a wide range of undergraduate courses.
Robertson Scholars not only receive financial support, they embark on a self-development programme called the Journey to Success, with personal support through peer mentoring, employability workshops and paid internships. Their welcome induction begins with a weekend “residential” across two of our Outward Bound centres.
Scholars chosen for the Scholarship are nominated by their school, college or university as talented individuals who show real potential despite their life experiences. Often the first in their family to go to university, Scholars attend the Outward Bound residential to help allay their fears and build confidence. They are put into groups according to their university and work intensively in teams with students they will be able to see again once at university.
Feedback from the residential shows numerous benefits, such as establishing friendships before university starts.
Gregor Currie is a case in point. Currently studying Physics at the University of St Andrews, Gregor says his experience as a Robertson Scholar has been hugely beneficial. He describes the residential as “a good way to help us all meet people going to the same university and have friends before we even started. I found it hugely helpful and some of my best friends now came from that weekend.”
Gregor was identified as having the necessary qualities to participate on the Sir Ian Good Leadership Award (SIGLA), a programme offered by The Robertson Trust to further develop peer mentoring and team building skills: “The year after my first residential, I was invited back to Outward Bound in order to help with the new intake of scholars and develop my leadership skills further,” he says. “The instructors are amazing and know how and when to push you, when to support you and are just hugely knowledgeable. Groups of young people go there with no outdoor learning experience and at the end of the course they’re changed, they’re thinking differently.”
The Robertson Trust is keen to maximise the impact of the residential induction weekend by encouraging as many of their SIGLA Scholars as possible to return the following year to support their younger peers. As team mentors, young people like Gregor act as Robertson Ambassadors, explaining the ethos of The RobertsonTrust and the package of support available on what is largely a talent management initiative.
Gregor says being a Robertson Scholar has “100 per cent changed my life for the better. Outward Bound changes lives and helps people realise their full potential in such a short time, better than anything else I’ve seen.”
Liya Falkova is another Robertson Scholar whose life has hugely benefitted from the partnership between the Trusts. Also studying at St Andrews, she appreciates the financial generosity as well as the practical support she receives from The Robertson Trust. Her Outward Bound experience has helped her meet new friends and provided opportunities to develop leadership skills, which she puts to good use mentoring others and fundraising for local charities.
Outward Bound taught her that “your limits are only in your own head: life starts where your comfort zone ends, so take a step into the unknown and you’ll find yourself standing on the top of the mountain looking at the horizon full of breathtaking adventures and life-changing opportunities”.
The Trust remains determined to help as many young people as possible irrespective of their background which is why our partnership with The Robertson Trust is important now and for the years to come.
Martin Davidson, Scottish director, Outward Bound Trust. Find out more about this project or other aspects of The Trust’s work by contacting Martin.firstname.lastname@example.org