Breaking down barriers, building opportunities

Our outreach and support programmes are giving young people who may think university education is outwith their reach an insight into the possibilities open to them.

The University of Edinburgh’s exceptional standards of education and academic excellence attract and inspire students from around the world. But we also want to connect with people who feel a university career is beyond their reach.

Our outreach and support programmes engage with young people and communities to break down barriers and increase accessibility to university education. This article looks at just some of them.

Digital Centre of Excellence, Newbattle High

Judy Robertson
Judy Robertson, Professor of Digital Learning at Moray House School of Education

The Digital Centre of Excellence at the new Newbattle High School Community Campus opened in June 2018. “The council and the school wanted to give children the skills to access higher-paying jobs or consider a university career,” explainS Judy Robertson, Professor of Digital Learning at Moray House School of Education.

“We worked with the school as they created the Centre of Excellence, and advised on facilities that would help them achieve their aim.

“It’s a great partnership. We help the school by, for example, working with teachers to look at how to teach subjects like data science. The shared learning space that connects us with the school helps our student teachers see how methods work in practice.”

The Centre also supports wider ambitions, such as the Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Deal, which aims to make Edinburgh and the surrounding region the data capital of Europe. The University is a key partner in the data-driven innovation (DDI) programme designed to achieve that aim, and the work done with Newbattle is vital to its success.

“If we’re going to make that ambition a reality, we’ll need people with the right skills,” says Judy. “That’s why we must bring these subjects into schools. And that’s what makes initiatives like Newbattle so important.”

Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre

Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre
Local children engage with the University’s scientists

Also working with schools, as well as the wider community, the Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre (EBSOC) is the first of its kind in Scotland. It’s designed to give everyone – from primary school children to community groups – access to hands-on experiences and learning in science.

“We want to increase the understanding of science across the community, and to help people understand that we all have the skills it takes to be a scientist,” says Jayne Quoiani, the EBSOC Education Officer.

“That’s why the Centre is purpose-built for visitors, for delivering hands-on understanding of what goes on in a science lab. We use real equipment and our visitors interact with real scientists and clinicians. We’re the only facility in Scotland that offers that kind of experience.”

Since opening in January, EBSOC has welcomed more than 1,200 visitors from schools, community groups and the wider public. It also participates in community events, such as the Midlothian Science

Festival, to increase awareness of its work and encourage more people to get involved, and to help people to realise that university and a career in science can be for everyone.

Nicola Stock, Public Engagement Officer at The Roslin Institute and Project Lead for EBSOC, said: “Our main aim is to connect visitors from all backgrounds with researchers here at the university, who share details of their lives – at work and outside – as well as their experiences of studying science at school and university.

By bringing visitors into our world and engaging them with real-life science, we can break down barriers and preconceptions about science, and show people that scientists are people too!

Jayne Quoiani

"Our visitors leave excited and inspired – and we believe they’re more likely to engage with the university and with science as a result.”

If you’d like to know more about EBSOC, visit their website.

Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre

The Alwaleed Centre Summer School

Alwaleed Centre Summer School
Participants at the Alwaleed Centre Summer School

The Edinburgh Alwaleed Centre is part of a unique network of six centres in universities around the world. It’s designed to foster a better understanding of Islam and Islamic culture through research and outreach projects, and to create closer links and cross-cultural dialogue between the Muslim world and the West.

The Centre’s Ambassadors of Peaceful Dialogue Summer School is part of a programme of events designed to achieve this aim. It offers an annual cohort of 70 high school students from Saudi Arabia the opportunity to be part of a three-week intercultural programme hosted by the University.

“The students take part in various activities and workshops alongside University students and young people from across Edinburgh,” explained Outreach and Projects Manager Tom Lea. “The idea is to bring these two cultures together so we can openly and honestly explore differences, while also celebrating everything that unites us.

“We pride ourselves on being a global university. This summer school is one way of extending our global influence and building our international connections. It also shows young people from distinctly different cultural backgrounds that these kinds of connections offer exciting opportunities.

“Fundamentally, the Summer School – and the work of the Alwaleed Centre as a whole – makes a significant contribution to the strong, sustainable future of our University as a truly global institution.”

Related links

Local community projects

Life-changing learning