Raising the educational aspirations of young people

Derby is a social mobility cold spot, an Opportunity Area, ranked by the Social Mobility Commission 316th out of 324th local authorities in England in terms of prospects, with GCSE attainment well below the national average.

It is against this stark backdrop that the University of Derby developed Progress to Success (P2S) to engage some of the most disadvantaged learners in the country.

Progress to Success

Our vision embeds an impactful, place-based outreach programme, working collaboratively with local schools and organisations through the Opportunity Area, our own student body, and learners themselves, to address entrenched social immobility and achieve sustained change.

P2S adopts a ‘building block’ approach, delivering a unique, highly adaptable framework from Year 7 through to Year 11. It is both responsive to cross-cutting government policies on skills gaps, inclusion and levelling up, and to local need.

It is targeted to learners who will gain maximum benefit from participation, for example those from areas with the lowest participation rates in higher education or who are eligible for free school meals.

Through P2S we engage learners on an individual level, establish what fires their imagination and grows their self-belief. Collaborating with learners is key, and they have shaped elements through co-creation and pilot activities.

Chiko Mawoyo

The activities helped my confidence to grow and the various students I met through these activities left me feeling so inspired and really believing that I could do anything that I set my mind to.

Chikomborero Mawoyo
Progress to Success participant - and University of Derby graduate


Progress to Success is making a real difference. We’ve seen a 55% increase in those stating they knew enough to make informed progression choices, reflective journal evidence highlighted an increased motivation to study and 63% of the trackable learners come from the lowest POLAR quintiles, and of these, 42% progressed to HE, far higher than expected for low POLAR quintile students.

These statistics, compelling as they are, pale into insignificance when learners tell us the legacy of taking part in P2S:

Supporting learners to develop their own pathway to success is what really matters.