Liverpool to lead international focus on social inclusion in higher education

‘Professor Long Long’ means Professor Little Dragon in Mandarin

The University of Liverpool is to launch an International Centre for Educational Opportunities at Shanghai Expo that will disseminate best practice in widening participation in higher education (HE) around the world.

The centre will also build on the success of the University’s own outreach activities which have seen the innovative ‘Professor Fluffy’ programme rolled out to schools across the UK. The scheme was created for primary school children from ‘non-traditional’ university backgrounds in order to teach them about the benefits of going to university and has been delivered to more than 50,000 young people in the UK so far.

Using the colourful toy academic – Professor Fluffy – as a teaching aid, children aged nine and 10 are taught a mini-curriculum in subjects such as medicine and science.  The children also visit university to learn about life on campus where they meet students, visit lecture theatres and take part in hands-on activities that support the national curriculum.

The University is working with YMCA Canada to adapt the Professor Fluffy scheme for delivery in Toronto and is also collaborating with its joint venture institution – Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University near Shanghai – with a view to developing similar outreach activities in China.

The University already runs a course in Mandarin for children on Merseyside which builds on the ‘Professor Fluffy’ programme in the context of Chinese culture and language. At the centre of the initiative is the character ‘Professor Long Long’ (meaning Professor Little Dragon in Mandarin). Young students attend after-school clubs where they learn about Chinese culture and study the basics of Mandarin.

Director of the Centre, Tricia Jenkins, said: “We will provide a focus for the latest global thinking about the changing role of the HE sector in the enhancement of social inclusion. The messages are serious but the work has to be fun and engaging as it is essentially about realising the dreams of children.

“Factors such as income, gender, ethnicity and location can all impact on a child’s educational attainment. Gender issues are also complex, with girls being under-represented in many science subjects in China and boys across Europe becoming increasingly less likely to progress to university.

“The new centre, based in Liverpool, will act as an international hub for connecting practitioners and researchers who are working to increase the opportunities for those who are under-represented in HE.

“The University is also working closely with the European Children’s University Network in Vienna and its partners around the world. This new network is the first to focus globally on engagement with children and young people at university level.”

The University of Liverpool International Centre for Educational Opportunities will be launched in the Liverpool Pavilion at Shanghai Expo on Tuesday, 10 August.

Notes to editors:

1. Members of the media are welcome to attend the launch which takes place in the Liverpool Pavilion at Shanghai Expo at 7pm on Tuesday, 10 August. Please contact Kate Spark on the number below if you would like to attend.

2.  The University of Liverpool is a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive institutions in the UK. It attracts collaborative and contract research commissions from a wide range of national and international organisations valued at more than £98 million annually.

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