The pedagogical benefits of active learning environments such as simulations within university teaching have been widely acknowledged. This paper starts from the premise that simulations can derive benefits when used as an effective university outreach tool to widen participation in and raise aspirations towards entering higher education. We argue that European Union (EU)-related simulations involving students in secondary education can increase their interest in studying European politics and, more generally, political science and international relations at university level. This is seemingly particularly the case with students predisposed to pursuing a degree in these fields. The paper uses data gathered via a pre- and post-simulation questionnaire completed by pupils attending six secondary schools in 2016 who all participated in one of the three simulations included in the study. Empirical investigation reveals three major effects of simulations. First, the simulations can increase participants’ interest in pursuing university degrees in fields cognate to EU politics. Second, simulations can increase participants’ self-assessed knowledge of EU politics. Third, simulations can increase the importance participants place on understanding the workings of the EU. Taken together, these findings support our claim that EU-related simulations may be used as outreach tools to increase interest in pursuing EU-related subjects at university level. Such an increase is desirable despite—or perhaps precisely because—of the ongoing Brexit process, as the understanding of and engagement with EU politics will remain relevant for current and future generations of British students.
Heard-Laureote, K., Kreuschitz-Markovic, M., & Bortun, V. (2020). The interest-boosting effects of political simulations as university outreach activities with secondary school pupils in the UK. European Political Science, 19(3), 387-400. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41304-020-00257-y