Case study

How the University opened doors for me

At the University of Derby, we have a strong record in tackling barriers to access and success. By removing these barriers, we are improving the life chances of people across our region — and beyond — and we are growing our reputation as a leading institution for social mobility.

Here, some students, graduates and teachers, explain how engaging with the University through outreach and widening access activities has positively affected them, and the young people they work with.

Emma Burns, University of Derby student and Student Ambassador

I first became involved with the Outreach team in Year 8, when a few student ambassadors from the University of Derby came to my school and gave a talk on ‘why go to university’. We were offered the opportunity to take part in an experience day at the University alongside our school peers.

I personally wanted to be involved, as I had never visited a university before (unsurprisingly as I was only 13!). I thought, to be able to have a taste of university at such a young age would be a rare and invaluable experience. I had always wanted to go to university, but naively I had always thought it is something you had to leave your hometown for. Being from Derby, I had never realised how brilliant the university sat on my doorstep was; I was overwhelmed by the modern campus, how fabulous the sports facilities were and how supportive an environment the University of Derby clearly was.

From this experience it confirmed my desire to go to university; it instilled in me the work ethic needed to succeed in my GCSEs and A Levels to make this dream possible. I found it much easier to apply myself in school once I had an end goal in mind.

During my time at the University of Derby my academic confidence has grown enormously, and I now strive for things that I never thought possible for me...To anyone considering going to university – get involved with Outreach; it could change your life!

Emma Burns
University of Derby student and Student Ambassador

I never realised how much I would enjoy higher level education; I knew I would love the social side of university, but the work is just as important. The help lecturers and tutors give you is un-paralleled, and I don’t believe many other universities compare to Derby in this regard. The University of Derby is an unbelievably supportive place to study and I would have never considered it before had it not been for the Outreach programme.

I am currently applying for a Masters degree in biomedical science, and had I not been to a university that really wants its students to achieve like Derby, I would not have had the confidence to pursue my interests further to level 7 study. I would not have had the self-confidence to know I was capable of this; I always believed it was beyond my reach and outside my realms of intelligence. However, during my time at the University of Derby my academic confidence has grown enormously, and I now strive for things that I never thought possible for me. In the future I would like to complete a PhD in Biomedical Science, and this is all because I went to the right university for me, which was made possible by the Outreach programme.

To anyone considering going to university – get involved with Outreach; it could change your life!

student and student ambassador Emma Burns, discusses how the University impacted her.

View Emma Burns - How the University of Derby opened doors for me video transcript

Bemrose students experience day

Nathan Addai, University of Derby student

Working with the Widening Access (WA) team has created some standout memories and experiences in the two years I have been a Student Ambassador at Derby.

Through this work I have had the opportunity to visit schools and share my university experience and subject knowledge with GCSE and Sixth Form students.

As a student ambassador, what I have enjoyed the most about working with the WA team is opening school and college students’ eyes to the variety of personalities and learning styles that university can accommodate today. I have had the privilege of engaging with students of various academic abilities, and it has been rewarding seeing their faces change with enthusiasm when hearing about degrees in Animation (my BA course), Motorsport Engineering, Policing or other professions that they hadn’t considered before and sound exciting to them.

Nathan Addai

I’ve enjoyed giving encouraging words of advice for pupils who feel they don’t ‘fit in’ or feel feel culturally/ethnically alienated – something I relate to from my own school experience.

Nathan Addai
University of Derby Student and Student Ambassador

In WA workshops, I’ve enjoyed seeing secondary school students creating their own daily university schedules, having one on one conversations with students while conducting campus tours, and giving encouraging words of advice for pupils who feel they don’t ‘fit in’ or feel culturally/ethnically alienated – something I relate to from my own school experience.

Looking back, it would have greatly boosted my confidence and vision if I had been given the chance to experience something like the University of Derby’s outreach events, while at secondary school. Leaving a legacy is one of my biggest passions in life and I feel I have had the freedom to do that in my own authentic, little way through the engagements I have made with pupils in WA events. As activities slowly return to normality after Covid-19, I look forward to resuming this before I graduate from my current Masters degree!

Boys working on experience day

Brett Goacher, Deputy Head of Sixth form at Samworth Church Academy in Mansfield

I first got involved with the Outreach programme at the University of Derby as a pupil while in Year 11, specifically with Aim Higher, which was based at the University. They ran sessions on revision techniques, along with looking at university courses, progression, UCAS and student finance.

From this point, I went to College but, unfortunately, it wasn't right for me, so I left at the beginning of Year 13. I was working full time and volunteering as a football coach, which fuelled my passion to become a teacher. Luckily enough I heard an advert on the radio about the foundation programme at Derby for people above the age of 19.

I went to an open evening and was enrolled quite literally within two days. I studied Biology, English Literature and Mathematics, with the sole intention of becoming a teacher.

After completing the course, I progressed onto a Mathematical degree with Education. While doing this, I then became employed by the University as an Education Liaison Assistant. In this role, I began delivering sessions that helped inspire me to go to university in the first place, so I had literally gone full circle.

Brett Goacher

My involvement with the Outreach programme enabled me to give back to something which had given me an enormous amount of confidence to progress in education…[it] had a profound impact on my career as the skills I learned enabled me to progress in teaching.

Brett Goacher
University of Derby graduate, Deputy Head of Sixth form Samworth Church Academy

It developed my passion for working with young people across Derbyshire. I delivered sessions on Personal Statements, applying through UCAS, ‘Maths Raising the Grade’, as well as many of the sessions that were originally presented to myself when I was at school.

My involvement with the Outreach programme enabled me to give back to something which had given me an enormous amount of confidence to progress in education. I completed my degree alongside working with the University and progressed on to study a PGCE in Secondary Education.

I have been a maths teacher for seven years now and became a Deputy Head of Sixth Form at my Academy over three years ago. The Outreach programme had a profound impact on my career as the skills I learned enabled me to progress in teaching. I now work closely with Year 11 to 13 regarding progression into further and higher education. It is a job I have incredibly fond memories of and is a role I am thankful for having.

 

group of student working on a shared project

Anisha Johal, University of Derby Graduate and former Student Ambassador

We all have something that we attribute our successes, achievements, and accomplishments to, and for me, that something is the University of Derby. Simply put, the University has made me who I am today.

In 2019, I graduated with a First Class BA (Hons) degree in English and was awarded a competitive fully funded academic scholarship to study my Masters at the University of Nottingham. Throughout my time at Derby, I worked in 14 paid roles and eight voluntary roles at the University, completed 18 Futures Awards, and won three awards (one which included a trip to New York and Washington DC in America on the University’s International Travel Awards). I also worked in 14 roles outside of the University, including Sky News in London and multiple roles in the BBC.

I’m really passionate about helping others to uncover their full potential and reach for the stars, which is why I applied to become an Outreach Mentor/Student Ambassador in my first year of University. In this role I have worked with students of all ages at outreach events such as Buxton Summer Schools, Girls Get Motivated Summer School, English Raising the Grade, and Derby Scholars. Being in a position to inspire, encourage and empower others motivated me to get stuck in with countless events and projects in Widening Access. I currently create content for the Derby Scholars scheme and deliver workshops for local students on topics such as time management, essay writing, and applications.

Anisha Johal

We all have something that we attribute our successes, achievements and accomplishments to and for me, that something is the University of Derby. Simply put, the University has made me who I am today.

Anisha Johal
University of Derby Graduate and former Student Ambassador at the University

I loved my course and excelled academically as studying was like a hobby for me. The freedom offered on my course to pursue research into areas of interest led to me studying Panjabi culture, Sikh faith and Disney, and writing many essays in these areas. I was also the youngest to present my research at conferences across the country, including ones held at the University of Oxford, University of Warwick and University of Nottingham. My strong academic performance, experience and awards led to me being awarded a scholarship to study my Masters, which I graduated with a Merit in December 2020.

All of the phenomenal opportunities that the University of Derby offers resulted in me becoming one of the UK’s Top 10 Undergraduates of the Year 2019 for Impactful Social Action. I was also nominated for the University’s Graduate of the Year Award and I’m a Finalist in the national Women of the Future Asian Women of Achievement Awards 2021 for the Social and Humanitarian category. I never imagined that my work would be recognised nationally and Derby has played a huge part in this.

You too can grow, flourish and blossom here at the University of Derby.

2 students smiling

Wykeham Bosworth-Nightingale, University of Derby student and Student Ambassador

I participated in a University of Derby Widening Access event when I was in secondary education at Belper School and Sixth Form Centre. The event was a visit to the University, which included a tour of the campus at Kedleston Road, a presentation detailing how to apply to a University through UCAS and the benefits of studying higher education, as well as removing any previous misconceptions about university.

I cannot express the sheer positive impact this one visit had on my life. I had always wanted to study to become a primary school teacher since the age of 10, however as I had no previous family members who had attended university, this was an area of education that I found difficult to understand how to get into. I didn’t really know what a university was like or even if I would feel comfortable learning there for three years.

Wykeham Bosworth-Nightingale

Most important to me was visiting the campus…It most definitely motivated me to work harder when I got back to school.

Wykeham Bosworth-Nightingale
University of Derby student and Student Ambassador

Most important to me was visiting the campus. It was a wonderful experience that allowed me to see where I may study. Although there were details on the University website, because I had never visited a university before, seeing the sheer size and facilities in person really allowed me to explore the area and get a sense of the learning atmosphere and university life. It most definitely motivated me to work harder when I got back to school; it just fuelled my love for education and secured my passion for wanting to become a primary school teacher.

The experience has stuck in my mind, and consequently, I went on to study at the University of Derby. While there I was further inspired to work within the Widening Access department as a Student Ambassador so I could help inspire others through delivering primary schools events to groups of young children who may never have considered going to University before.

Widening Access Year 7 Experience Day

Gina Heatley, Usui Reiki Master Teacher and Spiritual Coach at Healing with Gina

Back in my sixth form days I wasn’t one of those young adults who knew exactly what she wanted to do in life. I was fascinated with human behaviour and hoped my grades would be good enough to get me into university. My A-level results varied not only in topic but in grades, from A’s and B’s in subjects such as Sociology and English Literature where I could debate and discuss, to a D in Biology.

When it came to looking at universities, I sought a campus with an inclusive community and a flexible degree programme with varying subjects and leeway on the acceptance grades required. I wanted to continue studying German but every university I found only offered that language as a standalone degree. When I saw that the University of Derby had a degree programme of any language with Business Psychology, I reached out. Unable to make the Open Day, a member of the University’s Aim Higher (AH) programme (now the Widening Access team) arranged a visit for me and my parents with a guided tour and introductions with lecturers and some of the students.

Gina Heatley

Life at Derby paved the way for me to follow my passions and say yes to opportunities which, in turn, opened doors that I never even knew existed.

Gina Heatley
Usui Reiki Master Teacher and Spiritual Coach at Healing with Gina

Although no-one else I knew from my sixth form near Northampton was attending Derby, the guidance, advice and people I met showed me the kind of supportive environment I’d be joining to continue my studies away from home. In my second year at Derby, I ended up joining the Aim Higher (AH) programme as a mentor to prospective students going into schools and colleges to answer their questions and concerns about university life and sharing my own experiences. My three years at Derby were fantastic and gave me the skills and life experience I’d need for my next big life challenge after completing my degree programme: living in China.

In my final semester at the University, a member of the AH team put me in touch with a partnership programme between the University, Rolls-Royce and China Civil Aviation Colleges to teach English in China for six months. In the summer that I completed my degree, I moved to Shanghai and from there my life truly changed. I spent 11 years working and living in China, my first two years as an English teacher, followed by seven years at an innovation company, which saw me managing projects and training teams from multinational businesses all over Asia in creative thinking and application, and my final two years as an alternative medicine coach. 

From Shanghai I moved to Italy and then settled in France where I launched my holistic healing practice, delivering private coaching and alternative medicine treatments to people all over the world. I often joke that if I had known I’d live anywhere but Germany, I might have chosen a language I'd use, but thankfully things turned out the way they did. Life at Derby paved the way for me to follow my passions and say yes to opportunities which, in turn, opened doors that I never even knew existed.

 

Girls Get Motivated

Chiko Mawoyo, University of Derby Graduate

My journey with the Widening Access team began when I was in Year 10, at Landau Forte College. We would come to the University to take part in various activities, like summer school and outreach events. I personally wanted to get involved because going to university was something I was really sure I would want to go on to do. These activities got me out of the house during the summer holidays and I got to experience what being a real-life university student was like, which was perfect!

These activities definitely helped my confidence to grow. The various mentors I met at Derby left me feeling so inspired and really believing that I could do anything that I set my mind to. These activities definitely impacted who I am as a person today. I developed some invaluable and transferable skills as an outreach participant, and later as an outreach Student Ambassador when I studied at Derby.

Chikomborero Mawoyo

The various mentors I met at Derby left me feeling so inspired and really believing that I could do anything that I set my mind to.

Chikomborero Mawoyo
University of Derby Graduate

These skills include public speaking which I was am now using in my post-graduate job on a regular basis, and the value of time keeping and punctuality, which is essential  as a student ambassador when all your students need get to their workshops and sessions on time.

From my time being an ambassador, I also took away the fact that there is so much to learn from each individual you meet, and an appreciation that every individual is from a different background and has different feelings and perspectives in life. It showed me how important it is to understand and respect others  to ensure that you get the most from your interaction with them, and vice versa.

Girls Get Motivated

David Jenkins, Careers Lead at Ormiston Ilkeston Enterprise Academy

Our school is located in an area where many young people dismiss the idea of going to university. Many students wouldn’t consider it an option and many more don’t believe it’s something achievable for them.

One of the primary aims of our Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance (CEIAG) strategy is to get our students to explore all possibilities and realise the many options they may not be aware of exist, as well as reconsider options they think they might not enjoy or be able to aspire to.

David Jenkins

Working alongside the University of Derby’s Widening Access Programme has started to develop a dialogue about all the potential pathways at Post-16 and beyond.

David Jenkins
Careers Lead; Head of Enrichment at Ormiston Ilkeston Enterprise Academy

Working alongside the University of Derby’s Widening Access Programme has started to develop a dialogue about all the potential pathways at Post-16 and beyond, which we can continue to build on throughout a student’s time in school.

The Post-16 Pathways workshop was hosted online, due to current Covid-19 restrictions, by the Widening Access team at Derby and our Year 9 students were able to interact throughout the session. This was well structured and introduced all the main options to students. Students enjoyed being able to ask questions in the online chat and were able to get specific advice about their future ideas.

This session also addressed the option of university. This will have made students think about whether university may be right for them and we will follow this up with further explorations of life at university.

 

Bemrose School

Karin Carter, Careers Leader at West Park School

West Park has worked with the University of Derby’s Widening Access Team over a number of years. During this time, the school careers programme has developed significantly as we moved from attending single events hosted by the University to including input for all year groups on the school calendar. 

The team has successfully enabled us to work towards meeting Gatsby Benchmark 7 (a framework for good career guidance created to support schools and colleges) by being flexible in delivery and supporting us to develop provision to meet our timetable requirements. Pupils in Years 10 and 11 have been able to attend a range of University events including HealthCare Insights, Sport@Derby, the Arts Degree Show, and the Games Expo; all of which have enabled pupils to make informed decisions about their future. 

Some have opted for degree programmes where maybe they wouldn’t have considered this in the past. All of Year 9 take part in the Progression Pathways workshop to support their GCSE and Post 16 decision-making. The Widening Access team has also been involved in our annual Careers Fair, targeting Years 9 and 10, and the Year 11 Post 16 evening. Parents welcome the opportunity to discuss and think more widely about educational and career options Post-16 and Post-18 to enable their children to make informed decisions about Post-16.

Sessions delivered both onsite at Derby and in school are engaging and are usually supported by Student Ambassadors who are approachable and able to answer individual questions from pupils who may be too shy to ask them in front of a whole class.

Karin Carter

I have found the provision from the University to be flexible and adaptable to school needs, complementing and expanding on what we provide in school and enabling us to develop our careers programme along with it.

Karin Carter
Careers Leader at West Park School, Derby

In recent months, Charlotte (Senior Officer in the Widening Access team) and the team have been amazing in developing sessions for our Year 10 and 11 pupils to support me in delivering a weekly careers programme in place of the usual fortnightly classes. This has been due to the introduction of a year group hub system to meet Covid-19 requirements. We have been able to offer higher level GCSE groups first-hand input on university education and higher and degree apprenticeships. The University has offered both in person and virtual provision based on current school policies, and the team has adapted to provide quality sessions under some quite challenging circumstances.

I have found the provision from the University to be flexible and adaptable to school needs, complementing and expanding on what we provide in school and enabling us to develop our careers programme along with it. The team at Derby is always welcoming, friendly and supportive whether onsite at the University or in school. Above everything else, they understand how schools work, how we all operate differently and can adapt provision accordingly.

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