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The online mentoring charity Brightside has responded to the urgent challenge of COVID-19 by designing and launching a new online mentoring programme to support the current generation of Year 13 students who are facing unprecedented hurdles in their transition to university.

Designed to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, Brightside has mobilised a coalition of nine higher education institutions and Uni Connect consortia in a national programme which will support students in their network of schools and colleges throughout England.

Brightside:- Prepare for HE is a new programme designed to support Year 13 students and other university offer-holders as they navigate this unique and complex series of challenges thrown up by COVID-19, following the cancellation of their exams and implications for their university places.

Launching on 1 June, the 16 week programme will support students from disadvantaged backgrounds to transition successfully to university and will:-

  • motivate students to retain their university places through increased preparedness and reduced disruption
  • increase students’ confidence and excitement about their future university life
  • deliver trustworthy, organised and personalised support and reassurance to students, helping them to navigate the challenges of unexpected developments and uncertainty
  • offer students continuity and effective transition, in the outcome of a ‘closed campus’ scenario in September
  • maintain an adaptable and flexible approach, to suit an evolving landscape and the specific and imminent needs of individual mentees.

Mentees will:

  • develop their coping skills and be able to deal with setbacks and overcome challenges
  • build a sense of belonging and feel nurtured
  • be able to understand and tap into the support networks available to them
  • maintain their motivation for their chosen subject and institution
  • feel prepared for changes in learning styles at university
  • increase their understanding of what to expect from university study and life
  • become empowered to make confident and informed decisions.

Laura Gray, Chief Executive of Brightside said: “We know the real sense of anxiety and dislocation which students are facing because of Covid-19. The Brightside:- Prepare for HE national programme has been designed to provide personalised, tailored support to students whose usual sources of information, advice and guidance have been torn up. I am delighted at the huge interest from Brightside mentors to support students in their transition to university, and am excited by the potential of the programme to provide meaningful support for students throughout this unbelievably challenging period.”

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said: “I know this is a difficult and uncertain time for those who want to go to university this autumn, but no student’s future should be put on hold because of the coronavirus.

“I’m delighted to see the Brightside mentoring programme supporting young people as they transition to university in these unusual circumstances. This help and reassurance will be invaluable to these students empowering them to make the best decisions.”

Clare Marchant, UCAS’ Chief Executive said: “We are delighted to be working with Brightside, providing students with expert support from across the UCAS team, as they prepare to start their undergraduate course. Our survey results show that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to have had their higher education preparation adversely affected since the coronavirus outbreak, making programmes such as Prepare for HE even more important for their transition to university. Relevant and timely information is crucial for anyone applying, and we’re continuing to enhance our advice for the wider applicant community, particularly through the UCAS Hub, to ensure messages are relevant and personalised for students’ individual and diverse circumstance.”


1. Brightside: Prepare for HE is a national programme led by Brightside and supported by the following university institutions and Uni Connect consortia:- University of Chester, University of Surrey, Future HY (York and North Yorkshire), Greater Manchester Higher, GROWS (Gloucestershire), Higher Education Outreach Network (Surrey and North East Hampshire), HeppSY (Sheffield), Make Happen (Essex), Study Higher (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Swindon). The programme will support 1,500 students in its first phase.

2. The Uni Connect programme from the Office for Students offers activities, advice and information on the benefits and realities of going to university or college. More information about the Uni Connect programme can be found here -

3. UCAS is an official partner of the programme, providing information resources and support. UCAS is an independent charity, providing information, advice and admissions services to inspire and facilitate educational progression. Further information about UCAS is available here -

4. Brightside is the UK’s leading online mentoring provider and works with over 65 organisations across the UK to provide online support to over 10,000 students every year. Brightside provides access to positive role models and gives students tailored information, advice and guidance helping to build self-esteem and supporting young people to plan for their futures. Further information about Brightside is available here – Based on an analysis of 9,000 students between 2009 and 2017, the Brightside 2020 impact report (Brightside long-term outcomes report) shows that students with the lowest levels of higher education participation were three times more likely to enter higher education if they received mentoring support from Brightside.

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