From education to employment

University of Chester recognised for commitment to boosting social mobility

University recognised for commitment to boosting social mobility

The University of Chester has won two national awards for its commitment to levelling up and breaking down barriers. 

Vice-Chancellor Eunice Simmons has been named as the joint winner of the University Leader of the Year award in The Purpose Coalition awards

Sharing knowledge and inspiring young people in relation to digital technologies with schools and colleges across Cheshire and Warrington has earned the University the award for Breaking Down Barriers in the Category for Closing the Digital Divide.

The awards, partnered with Sodexo, recognise leaders who have made remarkable contributions to levelling up and breaking down barriers that will boost social mobility across the UK.

The Purpose Coalition is made up of some of Britain’s biggest names including businesses, NHS Trusts, Councils and Universities. The cross-party group is chaired by Rt Hon Justine Greening, the UK’s former Secretary of State for Education, Transport and International Development.

  • Professor Simmons has played a pivotal role in widening participation and breaking down barriers to education. She is the Chair of the Board of Trustees of TASO (Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education), an independent charity which has the vision to eliminate equality gaps in higher education. 

She leads the University’s Citizen Student strategy which sets a student’s studies firmly in the context of society and aims at equality not just of opportunities but of outcomes.  

Professor Simmons recently shared her experiences of supporting the levelling up agenda alongside the rt Hon Justine Greening and John Gill, Editor of Times Higher Education (THE) at the ‘Levelling Up: How higher education can drive progress in regional areas’ at the THE Campus Live UK&IE event in Liverpool. 

The event brought together academic and administrative higher education leaders and industry partners and policy experts to discuss, debate and plan how to achieve institutional success. Professor Simmons outlined how the University of Chester has implemented best practices to supercharge progress in this area. 

Professor Simmons said:

“This is a very welcome recognition and something that could not have been achieved without the support and dedication of all my colleagues who have embraced the vision of the Citizen Student and all it involves. It is a real team effort here at Chester and this award reflects that.”

  • The Cheshire and Warrington LEP Digital Skills – Digital on Tour – School Visits/Engagement project (DoT)has won a Purpose Coalition award for Breaking Down Barriers in the Category for Closing the Digital Divide.  

The DoT project saw a team from the University design an interactive set of activities for primary and secondary schools focusing on developing digital skills. They shared this by visiting schools and colleges with a fully equipped van enabling the young people to try the tasks firsthand. 

The DoT project is funded by the Cheshire and Warrington LEP Local Growth Fund (LGF) to help with Digital Skills development. 

The school visits and careers events took place through the University’s Careers and Apprenticeship events where students were able to interact with the equipment, with the University’s DoT, Outreach, High Horizon and Apprenticeship Teams. 

To date, more than 95 schools have engaged with the project with more than 3,400 students taking part. The young people learned more about technologies including coding, virtual reality and drones as well as the careers that use these skills, such as in the fields of the University departments of Archaeology, Biology, Education, Geography and Health and Social Care. The visits are planned to continue throughout 2024 and beyond. 

The team at the University who brought the project to life included Alex Foster, Senior Desktop Officer; Sean Williamson and Chantal Bradburn from the Outreach team and Brian Fitzpatrick and Joan Martin from the Special Projects department. 

The feedback has been extremely positive. Employer Relations Co-ordinator at Birchwood College, Aimee Ruddy, said:

“It was a real positive for the students and staff.  The students have already been telling us about the positive experiences they got out of the day. The digital bus was amazing.” 

Year 5 and 6 teacher, Gill Clark, from Witton Walk Primary School in Northwich said the visit was “such an amazing opportunity for the children to have the opportunity to not only see this sort of technology but to use it also.” 

Brian Fitzpatrick, who led the project at the University, said:

“We are so proud to win this award. Thanks to a real team effort across different departments at the University, plus the support of the LEP we have been able to introduce young people to new and innovative technology which we hope will inspire them as they look to the careers of their futures.” 

Pat Jackson, Director of Skills and Education at Cheshire and Warrington LEP, said:

“As part of our ambition for the region to be the UK’s healthiest, most sustainable, inclusive and growing economy, the Cheshire and Warrington LEP Local Growth Fund allocated £5m Skills Capital Investment to 17 innovative projects giving those in education, community groups and people seeking work access to the latest equipment and enhancing their essential and creative digital skills as well as providing the foundations for other subsequent investment and brilliant collaborations. 

“Our investments include investing just under £900K to the Digital on Tour – School Visits/Engagement project which is a fantastic example of giving people crucial hands-on experiences and opportunities to succeed in a digital world and we are delighted to see it get this richly deserved award.” 

Related Articles