Bringing Oxford University to Oxford People

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Widening Access Officer Louisa Brossler is working to boost Continuing Education’s outreach.

Louisa’s ambition is to make the department more visible to the whole spectrum of Oxford and Oxfordshire society - and to engage people who wouldn’t normally consider studying at Continuing Education. She is also the disability coordinator for the department, with a responsibility for including and supporting people with disabilities.

With a mandate to get out into the local community and connect with the hard to reach, Louisa’s role has taken her to what she describes as ‘a wide range of settings within the community, discussing ideas with local community leaders from a diverse range of backgrounds.’

Louisa’s plans for the coming months include a partnership with thriving local arts space Cornerstone Arts in Didcot, in which Continuing Education will team up with several of Cornerstone’s groups to run a range of lectures on a variety of subjects, still to be confirmed.  Look out, too, this autumn, for activities linked to the department’s open days in September and Black History Month in October. 

Most recently, this summer saw Louisa organise a series of mini-lectures in a tent at the Florence Park Festival, with an interactive element for younger festival-goers. The festival is a community-based event which takes place in one of Continuing Education’s target postcode areas under the Acorn system (which flags up specific postcodes in the UK associated with deprivation). ‘Conted has not previously had a presence at the festival, but this felt like a good fit for what I am trying to achieve in terms of my access and outreach objectives,’ Louisa explains. ‘The festival is well known locally, extremely well-attended, and attracts a very diverse range of attendees from the immediate, surrounding area and from further afield. My aim for having a presence at the festival was two-fold: increase our local profile and engender a sense of inclusivity.’

On the day of the festival, Continuing Education ran a series of three mini ‘taster’ lectures.  The first, ‘What has stuff ever done for us?’ was run by the historian Antony Buxton; the second was on Asian food history and run by the well known Asian historian Yasmin Khan; the third was a session on poetry and nature, run by professor of literature Tara Stubbs and artist Jane Haigh.  To accompany the lectures and allow the parent attendees a chance to listen, Louisa also arranged a fun craft activity for children - making decorative peacocks (the national bird of India), which was a great success. 

‘The day provided me and my colleague from the marketing team, Tom Creese, a great platform from which to engage with the attendees at the event,’ Louisa says.  ‘We were able to promote the work that we are doing here and capture data from attendees for our mailing list; offering them the possibility of a huge 90% discount if they fulfilled the eligibility criteria.  The event attracted a great deal of attention, and is something I very much hope we can do again or roll out in the future at other similar local events.’

Louisa, who started working for the department last summer, is relatively new to Oxford, having moved here in 2014 from London, where she worked at the BBC. She lives in central Oxford and has two young children. Outside work, she likes to take part in triathlons and has a keen interest in the arts, in particular music, from pop to classical. 

‘Conted, in my estimation, is the most accessible part of the University, given that a lot of our courses don’t demand an academic pedigree to be able to take part,’ says Louisa. ‘However, based on the research I have undertaken since starting in my role, I don’t think this is as widely known as I believe it should be.  By getting out into the local and wider community, presenting ourselves in friendly, inclusive and accessible way, I believe that we can break down those perceived barriers, allowing Oxford the University to be truly for Oxford the city.’

Published 6 July 2018