Imperial College London

Imperial partners with The Access Project to boost student university chances


Imperial graduates at Commemoration Day

A new initiative by Imperial and education charity The Access Project will offer unique support to students at a West Midlands school.

Students from underrepresented backgrounds at a West Midlands school are to get support with going to a top university, thanks to a new initiative by Imperial College London and education charity The Access Project

The Access Project (TAP) and Imperial are launching a long-term partnership with Ormiston Forge Academy in Cradley Heath to help students improve their grades, make successful applications and transition to leading universities. The work supported by Imperial will also help students to catch up with their studies following the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.  

The Access Project runs a programme of personalised tuition and in-school support at Ormiston Forge Academy, helping young people from the most underrepresented backgrounds gain the skills and knowledge they need to achieve a place at a top university. TAP’s students are more than twice as likely as peers from similar backgrounds to attend the most selective universities in the country.  

Confidence boost 

Madison is a year 12 student at Ormiston Forge Academy and receives tuition in Biology. She says being on the TAP programme boosts her confidence: “No one in my family has been to university. Even just being on TAP gives you the push to say you have the potential to do well and this gives me so much motivation. Having someone that believes in you is amazing. I’m hoping to get A grades in my A-levels.” 

The partnership between Ormiston Forge Academy, Imperial and The Access Project will offer an intensive widening participation project grounded in the local community. It will involve student visits to the College, workshops, contact with academics, as well as preparing students to make strong applications, give effective interviews and prepare for admissions tests.  

“Critical frontline support” 

Dr Annalisa Alexander, Head of Outreach and Widening Participation at Imperial, said: “We are really excited to be partnering with TAP and Ormiston Forge Academy on this innovative attainment raising programme. Helping students to achieve their potential in maths and the sciences lies at the heart of all our outreach and widening participation programmes at Imperial. 

“Being able to provide that critical front-line support in school is the best way to ensure a pupil can succeed, regardless of their background or family situation and TAP provides just this. Students who have been part of the programme have achieved great things and we are looking forward to being part of that journey.”  

Encouraging the brightest young minds 

Imperial’s central Outreach team is responsible for creating, running and evaluating a huge portfolio of STEM-based programmes from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 5 to encourage the brightest young minds from backgrounds currently underrepresented at Imperial to access futures in science, technology, engineering and maths at university and beyond. In 2020, the College launched a new five year Access and Participation Plan which demonstrates ambitious programmes to widen participation and diversify the student body.  

Three students in a Chemistry lab
London sixth form students take part in an Outreach activity in one of Imperial's Chemistry labs

The Access Project is a ground-breaking charity that helps bright young people from underrepresented backgrounds win places at top universities. They recruit, train and support volunteer graduates to tutor a 14 to 18-year-old for a session a week across the academic year. In addition, a dedicated staff member works with these young people in their schools to build their knowledge of universities and courses, arrange visits and speakers, and provide support and advice on applications and interviews. 

Expanding students’ horizons 

Andrew Burns, Regional Executive Principal for Ormiston across the West Midlands, said: “The Access Project exposes our students to contacts and experiences that they may otherwise not have. This opportunity to join forces with Imperial will further expand our students' horizons. During the time Ormiston Forge Academy has been partnered with TAP, students on the programme have secured places at the most selective universities in the UK.” 

Dr Lisa Mason, Principal of Ormiston Forge Academy said: "I'm delighted that Forge is part of this vitally important initiative which gives our students better opportunities and experiences. For some of our students, removing those barriers to university is a challenge; having partners like TAP and Imperial, who want the best for our young people, is key." 

TAP Chief Executive, Nathan Sansom, believes the new partnership will make a profound difference to students at the school: “It will be a great opportunity for Imperial College London and Ormiston Forge Academy to help students gain more knowledge about what it’s like going to a top university and how to get there. We hope it will enable young people on the programme to see elite institutions as a realistic destination for them.”  


Joanna Wilson

Joanna Wilson
Communications and Public Affairs

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Outreach, Comms-strategy-Inclusive-community, Equality, Diversity, Charity, Strategy-share-the-wonder, Education
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