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Gateways programme is a virtual success

25 May 2021

Gateways is our flagship pre-16 widening particpation programme that supports approximately 1700 WP students across 48 Greater Manchester secondary schools

Virtual gateways

Through the programme, pupils visit the University annually from Year 7 to Year 11 to gain essential information, advice and guidance (IAG) about higher education; learn more about the subjects they can study at degree level, and help create a sense of belonging for the students in a university environment.

After on-campus activity was cancelled in March 2019, approximately half of the Gateways cohort were unable to attend their annual session in the academic year 2019/20. These cancellations were then extended to 2020/21, and consequently the Gateways team were keen to deliver an online programme to ensure that these learners did not miss out on any more crucial higher education information.

The typical Gateways timetable is four and a half hours, and jam-packed with activities and presentations to provide students with key IAG, fun and inspiring academic enrichment, and an insight into student life through engaging with current university students. In order to make this online programme fit for purpose, engaging and fun for the learners, many adaptations were required.

The timetable was reduced to two hours, and a theory of change was completed to re-establish the key learning objectives for the programme. It was agreed that ‘providing key IAG about higher education’ should be prioritised within this limited time. All existing content was reviewed and adapted to translate to a virtual environment. As result, a collection of videos, activities, worksheets and presentations were created, to form a library of content for use on the Gateways programme. 

In order to ensure that the student voice was included in all of the events, student ambassadors contributed to pre-recorded videos and delivered fortnightly, live Q&A sessions that were offered to all participating schools. Teachers were also encouraged to use the University of Manchester’s array of academic enrichment resources, created by current PhD students that aim to explain and enthuse pupils about the wide array of subjects on offer at HE level.

Alongside the development of the virtual programme, the Gateways team also created and launched a new Gateways website. This was designed to consolidate learning from the live events, and signpost learners, teachers and parents/carers to further material and resources to enhance their learning. This website proved how valuable it was during the additional school closures in 2021, where worksheets and extension activities were created and uploaded to the website, to ensure that learners still had access to new HE information, even when Gateways events were cancelled.

Since the virtual programme was launched in September 2020, over 550 learners have attended a live event; over 57 sessions, with an additional 19 sessions planned in the next two months. Throughout the year, the Gateways team have been inundated with positive feedback from teachers; including the following from a teacher at East Manchester Academy:

"Thank you so much for the session, the students really enjoyed it and got a lot out of it. These are definitely the best virtual sessions we have run and the only ones I look forward to!"

The Gateways team are now beginning to plan the delivery schedule for 2021/22, and are hoping to return to face-to-face delivery as soon as possible, with the option for schools to still book virtual sessions were necessary. All of the new content that has been produced for the virtual programme will be integrated into the on-campus delivery timetables, or uploaded onto the Gateways website; of which pupils will be encouraged to use outside of their sessions.

More information

  • If you would like more information about the Gateways programme, or want to discuss anything included in this article, please contact
  • To view our videos created for virtual delivery, visit the Gateways YouTube channel.