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Durham University

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Evaluation of the Levelling Up: Aspire Higher Programme

A research project of the School of Education.


Levelling Up: Aspire Higher is a two year academic and pastoral support programme, targeted at Year 12 students who are aiming to pursue the study of Chemistry, Maths or Physics at University. We are excited to be able to offer our student participants the opportunity to take part in a variety of online subject specific tutorials, mentoring, guest lectures and activities designed to prepare them for University study to help make sure they are ready to apply for and succeed in Higher Education.

You can find out more about the programme here

This year is the first year that the Levelling Up: Aspire Higher programme has run and we will be running an evaluation research project alongside the programme. This will help us to understand what the impact of the programme has been for students, what has worked well and where improvements could be made in the future. The evaluation is being conducted by a research team which specialises in the evaluation of science education programmes in the School of Education at Durham University. The evaluation has received ethical approval from the Durham University School of Education Ethics Committee on 26th November 2020.

Levelling Up Programme Structure

What is the purpose of the study?

The aim of this study is to understand: what works well within the programme; where there may have been barriers or challenges for students or the teams running the programme; whether anything had to be adapted as it was run; how engaging students found the programme; how this programme differs in its provision to other widening participation programmes; and whether there are any changes that need to be made for the future. It will also aim to understand the impact the programme has had for participants and whether students from different backgrounds, have benefitted to varying extents from participating in the programme.

The evaluation is being funded by a philanthropic gift to Durham University, the London Mathematical Society and the Institute of Physics.

The evaluation will run in parallel to the programme from Spring 2021 to Summer 2022.

Levelling Up Evaluation Timeline

Why have I been invited to take part?

All participants on the Levelling Up: Aspire Higher programme are being invited to take part in the evaluation.

Do I have to take part?

Your participation is voluntary and you do not have to agree to take part. If you do agree to take part, you can withdraw from the evaluation at any time, without giving a reason. You can still take part in the Levelling Up: Aspire Higher programme even if you do not wish to be part of the evaluation.

What will happen to me if I take part?

If you agree to take part in the evaluation, you will be: asked to allow your completed application form to be shared with the evaluation team; and asked to complete a short start of programme questionnaire and end of programme questionnaire. Smaller numbers of students will also be asked if the evaluation team can sit in and listen to a tutoring and mentoring session, and may be asked to take part in a small group interview at the end of the first and second years of the programme. The training sessions and any on-site visits will also be observed by the evaluation team. We will also ask the mentors and tutors about their thoughts on how the programme has run. Taking part in any of the activities will always be optional and you can choose how much or how little you would like to be involved.

Are there any potential risks involved?

There are no additional risks to taking part in the evaluation. We will always store your information securely on university approved password protected devices or on software or services approved by the university.

As well as being used for the evaluation, with your permission, your individual responses to the start of programme questionnaire, will be shared with the teams running the programme so that they can better tailor the programme to the needs of participants. After the start of the programme, your responses to group interviews and the end questionnaire, will only be shared in anonymised form (i.e. so that you cannot be individually identified within the responses) to support the ongoing refinement of the programme. You will always have the option to opt out of any questions you are not comfortable answering.

Will my data be kept confidential?

All information obtained during the study will be kept confidential. If the data is published it will be entirely anonymous and will not be identifiable as yours.

Full details are included in the Privacy Notice (link below).

What will happen to the results of the project?

We expect the results of the evaluation research to be published in a report in Summer 2022 and in academic publications, websites and presented at conferences. No personal data will be published, however anonymised (i.e. not identifiable) data may be used in publications, reports, presentations, web pages and other research outputs. At the end of the project, anonymised data may be archived and shared with others for legitimate research purposes.

We are aiming to conduct a long-term evaluation of the impact of the Levelling Up programme, therefore, all research data and records needed to validate the research findings, will be stored for 10 years after the end of data collection.

Who do I contact if I have any questions or concerns about this study?

If you have any further questions or concerns about the evaluation research, please email:

If you remain unhappy or wish to make a formal complaint, please submit a complaint via the University’s Complaints Process (link below).

Link to other websites

Levelling Up: Aspire Higher programme information

Privacy notice

University complaints process


From the School of Education