March 2014

The know zone

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  • Ensuring complete representation
    From time to time ASCL Council co-opts members from groups that are under-represented to ensure that the views of all types of members are taken into consideration when debating policy. More
  • ASCL PD events
    Whole School Leadership of Teaching and Learning, Student Voice Beyond Student Councils, and Strategic Behavioural Management that Works More
  • Analyse this...
    What systems, processes and people do you need to help your staff develop their skills and their careers? Sue Bull and Vicky Bishop explain. More
  • Virtually University
    Virtually University (VU) links schools and colleges with universities via videoconferencing to help inform and inspire students with their HE choices More
  • Adding value
    Walk your way to improved health More
  • Poisoned chalice?
    Schools Minister David Laws recently announced a new programme to encourage ‘outstanding’ heads and school leaders to move into schools in challenging circumstances. Would you be willing to take on the challenge? Here, ASCL members share their views. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    The antidote to common leadership conundrums... More
  • Take Care?
    No matter the intention, what you call it or how you present it to students, Personal, Social, Citizenship and Health Education (PSCH More
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Virtually University (VU) links schools and colleges with universities via videoconferencing to help inform and inspire students with their HE choices

Virtually University

How does it work?

Virtually University (VU) was launched in 2004 by Bedford School and the University of Sheffield in collaboration with the educational charity The Sutton Trust. Its primary objective has been to link schools with a variety of universities via interactive videoconferencing, aiming to inform and inspire Key Stage 4 and 5 students’ important decisions of course and location in Higher Education (HE).

Increasingly, however, they are addressing students’ broader options and needs by bringing businesses into the classroom. An Education and Employers Taskforce report (Mann et al., 2010) suggested that 95 per cent of school leavers wished that they had had more interaction with business with 31 per cent saying that they had had none at all. Geography and opportunity are often factors in this and so VU sets out to complement what schools are already able to offer their students.

Is anyone else involved?

Last term VU offered sessions from a wide range of universities including Sheffield, Bristol, Birmingham, Greenwich, Newcastle, Oxford, Liverpool, and The Open University (OU). In addition they are running sessions with Barclays and BT with more businesses to follow.

Are there any resources?

VU provides a free resource enabling students to engage with a wide variety of people on a wide variety of subjects, bringing relevant and contemporary voices into the classroom. A session will involve up to five schools or colleges, beyond which the experience can become devalued. At each school or college, the audience ranges from 5 to 30 students, depending upon session format, objectives and school size. Sessions may be subject-specific, complementing curriculum delivery, or they may develop life skills, or provide stretch for gifted and talented students, or they may address preconceptions that students have about their abilities and their chances of pursuing particular courses of study and careers.

The format of the sessions varies from straight lectures to fully interactive tutorials and workshops. VU does not normally record events and stresses the importance of interaction; indeed 70 per cent of schools and colleges involved cite interaction with professors, lecturers, university students, professionals and other schools as key.

What do schools say about VU?

Although a free service, school and college leaders value VU highly with comments like those from Dave Appleby, Deputy Head at Biddenham International School and Sports College, echoed by many schools and colleges around the country: “Simon’s breakneck tour of a fascinating topic exposed my students to the sort of high-level intellectual challenge they might well meet at university.”

Similarly, students at Belle Vue Girls’ School in Bradford recently remarked, “This videoconference has made me open up my ideas of what I want to do after sixth form” and, “Loved it, and would love to take part in more.”

Is any technology required?

Any school or college with a broadband connection can take part. The best experience is gained by using dedicated videoconferencing equipment. Alternatively, they can connect schools and colleges into sessions using a personal computer (PC).


Mann, A, Lopez, D & Stanley, J, 2010, What Is to be Gained through Partnership?: Exploring the value of education-employer relationships, Review, London, Education and Employers Taskforce.

Find out more...

If you would like to find out more then please contact Rob Cullis on 07841025562 or

For full details of events please look on the VU website, available at: