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University scoops ‘Levelling Up’ award for ‘lifeline’ support services


Prof Shirley Congdon (left) with Sarah Jones from the Student Life Team, with the Levelling Up award

Financial support, food drops and mental health support for students

The University of Bradford’s Student Life Team has been awarded one of the first ever national Levelling Up awards.

The team, led by Sarah Jones, clinched the award, which is part of the Rt Hon Justine Greening’s Social Mobility Pledge initiative, for its work in helping students in financial difficulty.

The University has long provided financial support, in addition to running a food bank and offering other support - demand for these services soared by 291 per cent during the pandemic.

Student impact

The University was singled out for its commitment to ensuring financial and food worries would not adversely impact students. Just over 50 per cent of its 9,000-plus students come from financially deprived backgrounds.

It organised numerous free food giveaways, including take-aways over Christmas and launched a successful hardship fund appeal, which thanks to the generosity of local donors, raised an additional £30,000.

Staff have also helped by keeping in regular touch with all students forced to self isolate during the pandemic, offering advice and guidance on a range of issues, from finances and accommodation to other difficult situations which arise from everyday life.

Lifeline service

Sarah Jones said: “The Student Life Team has a proud history of supporting students with their financial and pastoral needs but the impact of the pandemic meant we had to quickly adapt our service to support our students with the unprecedented challenges many faced.

“Making sure our students could access food, cover their financial commitments, and were supported with their wellbeing was our number one priority during the pandemic and, for many of our students, the service we were able to provide was a lifeline.”

She added: “Delivering social mobility is a core part of our University strategy and something the Student Life Team has been working really hard to support. To be recognised for our work supporting our students is really gratifying and it demonstrates the significant commitment we make to ensuring that financial and other welfare difficulties do not hold our students back from achieving their full potential.”

Vice-Chancellor Professor Shirley Congdon made an address during the awards, during which she said: “Our vision is a world of inclusion and equality of opportunity… where people want to and can make a difference. We have made measurable impacts on social mobility, increasing participation rates in higher education, closing attainment gaps and supporting students to achieve graduate level jobs.

“Our outreach programme and contextual admissions approach [ensures] everyone with potential to succeed can study with us. University of Bradford is the place to be to make a difference, supporting levelling up to achieve prosperity for all.”

Generous support

Nikki Pierce, Academic Registrar, said: “We have a strong track record in supporting students in financial hardship, through our generous financial support, on-campus food bank, and money advice service.

“With over 50 per cent of our students coming from the most financially disadvantaged areas, we have seen first-hand the significant impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, with many more students requiring support. I’m incredibly proud of the work our Student Life Team have done in increasing the support available to ensure that no-one was left to fall through the gaps, and I am delighted that their work has been recognised with this award.”

Justine Greening said: “We know the difference a good education can make and we know the transformational power of getting that first job. What matters is what organisations are doing is having real, measurable impact.

“Universities are leading the social mobility agenda. They have a crucial role to play, not only for students but as wider engines of opportunity and social mobility in their communities. A special thank you to… the University of Bradford and Shirley Congdon.”

Watch the awards video here - skip to 16m 45s to see Bradford’s entry.