Building a bridge to provide new education opportunities

Oxford Mail: From left, Sobia Afridi, Brookes Bridges manager and Adam Lambert, partnership manager at Brookes, speak to Ismail Dauti, before he walks into prayer. Oxford Brookes staff went to the mosque at Manzil Way last year to encourage minorities into education From left, Sobia Afridi, Brookes Bridges manager and Adam Lambert, partnership manager at Brookes, speak to Ismail Dauti, before he walks into prayer. Oxford Brookes staff went to the mosque at Manzil Way last year to encourage minorities into education

IF someone has been out of education for a while or never got an opportunity to study in the first place – then a Brookes Bridges course is perhaps for them.

We run 22 free adult education taster courses in community centres and colleges around Oxfordshire.

They are targeted at the most deprived areas of the city such as Blackbird Leys, Littlemore, Northway and further afield around the county.

We have found they are a great way of helping people into education.

Education unlocks job opportunities, boosts earning power and increases confidence.

The scheme targets those who are unemployed or ‘under’ employed in areas still affected by the recession by offering short, practical courses which are stepping stones to other things.

The courses cover a big range of taster programmes in the subjects Oxford Brookes offers as foundation degrees as well as other subjects like mentoring and study skills.

They are run by Brookes staff and local tutors in the community in local colleges and community centres – venues that are easy for people to get to.

Last year, more than half of Brookes Bridges students went on to higher education or further education, often to a Brookes course taught at one of the further education colleges we partner.

The project came runner-up in The Guardian newspaper University Awards last year in recognition for creating opportunities for people who think study is closed off to them.

The awards recognise universities which have taken exceptional steps to address the difference in take-up of higher education opportunities across different social groups.

Brookes Bridges is really successful in attracting a high percentage of mature, black and minority ethnic and non-traditional learners.

I am very proud to be a member of staff and a student at Brookes.

I was born in Oxford and grew up in the city.

I had great parents who came over to England in the 1960s from Lahore in Pakistan. My father loved cricket and wanted to play here. They did not know much about the education system in the UK.

School was tough. Because I was perceived to be different, it was very difficult for me and my family.

I was bullied throughout my school life, to the point I ended up in hospital.

However, I persevered with my studies and got 10 GCSEs.

I then went on to study a secretarial course as I did not really know what to do with my life – and I didn’t have the confidence to think I could achieve much.

I then got a job at Oxford Brookes University and started to work with amazing and inspirational people who encouraged me.

I was surrounded by great academics. I thought ‘I want to have a degree’ and I believed I could achieve that.

For the past five years I have been studying for a part-time degree in International Relations and Sociology.

This may sound rather glib but it has changed my life.

I have gained so much confidence and am doing something I would never have done before.

Doing this degree has been one of the best things I have done – it feels liberating.

And I have met some amazing people, such as the Queen, through my work with Brookes Bridges.

Next year I hope to carry on with my studies and do a Masters.

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