About RARA

RARA is dedicated to enhancing personal tutoring to ensure all students achieve their potential. The HEFCE funded project – which stands for Raising Awareness, Raising Aspiration – is committed to addressing barriers to student success through access to high quality academic support. RARA will pilot improved policy, practices and tools to tackle attainment gaps within higher education, especially among students from BME groups and lower socio-economic backgrounds. This personal tutoring pilot project is taking place at The University of Sheffield, King’s College London and The University of Portsmouth. The ultimate goal: provide research, case studies and tools that can be used on a national scale, and start a conversation around the role of personal tutoring in tackling attainment gaps.

Raise Awareness

of attainment gaps, their causes and the power of personal tutoring to resolve barriers to success

Raise Aspiration

in the HE sector and amongst academics to improve personal tutoring

The Issue

Increasing access to higher education is important but this does not resolve attainment gaps on its own. Data suggests there is little or no relationship between the size of attainment gaps in UK higher education and the diversity of the student body.

Unexplained gaps remain for certain groups, who are less likely to achieve a 1st or 2:1 degree classification than their peers, despite controlling for prior attainment and other variables. These gaps emerge when students arrive at university.

The quality of pedagogical relationships between students and staff is one area, potentially impacting on attainment, which requires further conversation and study. Tutors are central to addressing gaps in attainment, alongside fostering a student’s feelings of belonging in higher education. Research shows some students display a lack of awareness or sense of entitlement to additional support that can help them progress and achieve their full potential.

RARA represents a coalition of universities being open and honest about our attainment gaps, as seen above, and committed to tackling this issue. The figures above have been calculated using the original formulas from the Broecke & Nicholls (2007) report for the Department for Education and Skills, to demonstrate the current unexplained BME attainment gaps in our institutions, controlling for prior attainment.

The Aim

RARA aims to strategically improve the quality of personal tutoring to provide a more consistent, effective and inclusive approach. A series of activities will address both institutional and national policy and practice on personal tutoring, with close monitoring of the impact on attainment gaps over two years.

Each partner institution within RARA will trial improved Personal and Academic Tutorial Sessions (PATS) and initiatives within a pilot department: Engineering (Sheffield), Dentistry (King’s) and Creative and Cultural Industries (Portsmouth). This involves and will develop:

  • Policies, lessons, techniques and strategies that can be employed across the sector, to narrow attainment gaps on a national scale.
  • A package of staff CPD initiatives, based on project findings, which can be rolled out as toolkits for the wider sector.
  • An online system and student interface for the management and administration of personal tutoring, to identify students who need additional support.
  • A National Best Practice Support Menu of ‘courses’ institutions can use to improve personal tutoring.
  • Extensive research on closing attainment gaps through personal tutoring, with data and a team of leading researchers sharing insight with the wider sector.