Education leaders were meeting today (6 December 2002) to move forward a major widening participation strategy for the North West.

The region is set to be the biggest beneficiary of the new Partnerships for Progression (P4P) programme, jointly funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Learning and Skills Council.

A minimum sum of £9,251,514 has been awarded to the North West strand of the programme. At more than 15 per cent of the total national budget of £60,000,000, this is the largest allocation to any single region.

Today, representatives of higher education institutions, further education colleges and schools, as well as Excellence Challenge co-ordinators, were gathering at Charnock Richard, Chorley, to review the widening participation work carried out in the region in the last three years and to look ahead to the start of P4P.

Rhiannon Evans, P4P Regional Co-ordinator and Director for Students and External Relations at Edge Hill, is one of the speakers at today’s event. She said: “The North West has the third lowest higher education participation rate of any region in the country and it is the second largest region. The development of P4P is an important step in helping the Government achieve its target of enabling 50 per cent of 18 to 30 year-olds to experience higher education by 2010.”

Tricia Jenkins, Head of Widening Participation at the University of Liverpool, said: “Today we are celebrating all the innovative work and personal and institutional investment that has gone into the past three years.”

Dr John Cater, Chief Executive of Edge Hill, urged universities and colleges to dig deep “to raise aspirations for all young people and to commit themselves to the widening participation agenda.”

Kate Murray, Regional consultant for HEFCE, said: “It is heartening to see the commitment to widening participation in the North West and the progress that has been made in the past few years.”