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UK Social Mobility Awards shortlisting for University


Collage of University students

Range of schemes includes ‘lifetime laptops loans’ and summer work-placements

The University of Bradford has been shortlisted in the University of the Year category in the UK Social Mobility Awards 2021.

The awards - now in their fifth year - celebrate institutions and businesses that are making strides and creating initiatives to advance social mobility within their own workforce or beyond their own walls.

The University of Bradford offers a range of schemes designed to increase social mobility, which includes hardship fund loans, special support for care leavers, a graduate workforce programme to boost employment and an admissions system which takes account of personal circumstances, not just exam grades.

Closing the gap

Academic Registrar Nikki Pierce said: “This is a proud moment for us because it recognises the hard work we have put in to make Bradford one of the most inclusive universities in the country. We have numerous schemes in place to ensure that when you come to Bradford, it doesn’t matter what your background is, or what your financial situation is, or whether there’s anything else which would otherwise limit you - our number one aim is that you succeed.

“We care about our students and we’re passionate about ensuring they achieve their potential. Our vision is a world of inclusion and equality of opportunity, where people want to, and can, make a difference.”

Over 80 per cent of the University’s 9,000-plus students come from financially deprived backgrounds. Despite this, continuation rates (those who remain in education) are above 90 per cent; and 91 per cent of its students find work or return to study within 15 months of graduation - with over 70 per cent of those choosing to remain in the Bradford region.

The University also has one of the lowest attainment gaps for black students at 5.3 per cent - over 69 per cent of its students are black and minority ethnic; and there is no difference in attainment between students who declare a disability and those who do not.

Greater opportunity

Organised by social justice charity, Making The Leap, this year’s awards have received an impressive array of entries comprising a variety of sectors from across different regions – the shortlist represents those who have best demonstrated the efficacy of their social mobility initiatives. 

The winners will be determined by an independent judging panel, made up of leading figures from business, charity and the public sector, and chaired by Sir Ken Olisa OBE. They will be announced at the awards gala on 14 October 2021.

Sir Ken Olisa OBE, who is also the HM Lord Lieutenant of London, said: “The war against Covid-19 has shown just how strong our nation is when we pull together. It has also shown how ‘we’ means people from every walk of life, heritage and ability. There can be no

greater proof of the power of social mobility. Now that its value is beyond dispute ‘we’ must pull out all of the stops to make social mobility a reality – even in peacetime.”

Some of the schemes listed in the submission include:-

Graduate Workforce Bradford (GWB)

Working in partnership with regional employers to increase employment opportunities for under/unemployed BME graduates, and trying to overcome barriers to employment for other groups, especially in the fields of health and social care, engineering and manufacturing, and public services.

Tackling digital poverty

The University offers a range of short and ‘life-time’ (duration of course) laptop loans to ensure all students have access to technology to support their learning, and in 2020 invested over £500,000 in new laptops to ensure all students could continue their studies during lockdown.

Contextual admissions

When making a decision about admissions, the University takes a number of factors into account - while these include exam grades, they also encompass financial circumstance, with additional UCAS points awarded for attending a specially-run summer schools. In addition, there is a process to review extenuating circumstances in case prospective students do not get the grades they expected.

Financial support

The University offers numerous financial support packages, including £1,000-a-year support grants to ‘care experienced’ (those who have been in the care system) and ‘estranged’ students (those who may lack family support). It also has a hardship fund to support students who find themselves in financial difficulty and an on-campus foodbank.

Mental health

The University has over 80 mental health first aiders (MHFAs) and hopes to double this number soon. MHFAs are there to reassure and support individuals in distress and challenge mental health stigma. It also recently launched a 24/7 mental health and welfare support line in partnership with Health Assured, has established relationships with the local NHS Trust to deliver the University of Bradford MyWellbeing College, and has a dedicated Counselling and Mental Health Service. In addition, there is a range of support through its Counselling and Mental Health Service.

SpLD screening

Screening is offered to all new students for Specific Learning Differences (SpLDs), recognising that many SpLDs are undiagnosed in the school system - this is offered online through its enrolment process, allowing the University to quickly identify students who would benefit from further intervention and support

Additional information

The SOMOs were the first national awards dedicated to social mobility, recognising the forward thinking organisations that are working to progress social mobility. 

Capita are the Gold Partners to the UK Social Mobility Awards 2021.

The University of Bradford has won a number of accolades for its work around improving social mobility and inclusion. These include:-

  • 2017: University of Sanctuary Award - one of only 12 in UK
  • Dec 2019: University of the Year for Social Inclusion 2019/20 (Times/Sunday Times)
  • March 2021: Ranked #1 in England on the new Social Mobility Index (HEPI)
  • June 2021: Quality Mark for supporting care leavers (NNECL)
  • July 2021: Levelling Up Award (Rt Hon Justine Greening’s The Purpose Coalition)
  • 2016-2021: Awarded six Athena Swan awards, recognising commitment to equality

*Statistics quoted in this release:-

  1. 80% ... financially deprived: OfS statistics, 2019-20 new entrants on FT UG Home fees, numbers from Index of Multiple Deprivation quintiles 1 and 2 out of those with known quintile (England domicile only)
  2. Continuation rates ... 90%: HESA Performance Indicators Table 3a, continuation status of FT First Degree Home new entrants into following year, 2018-19 to 2019-20.
  3. 91% ... find work ... : HEIDI+ GO data, proportion of 2017-18 Home UG graduating cohort not unemployed, out of those with an available for work / study destination.
  4. 70% ... remaining in the Bradford region: HEIDI+ 2016-17 graduating cohort
  5. Attainment gap ... 5.3%: HESA student data from 2019-20, proportion of those Home first degree graduates with a first or upper second honours result out of those with a first, upper second, lower second or third.
  6. 69% ... BME: internal data, all students 2020-21.
  7. Attainment ... disability ... : OfS statistics, 2019-20 FT first degree Home fee graduates.