From education to employment

First in the family students thrive at Solent

In a national campaign that features 100 undergraduates and graduates, showcasing the achievements of first in the family students – from a Lioness to a fashion designer for the stars and lots of talented individuals in between – Solent University, Southampton is proud that two members of their community feature on the list. 

Universities UK (UUK) has launched 100 Faces – a national campaign designed to enhance support for students who are the first in their family to attend university. The campaign is a call for more comprehensive financial support for students from some of the country’s least advantaged communities, highlighting the incredible achievements of first in the family learners during and after their university journey. 

Third-year TV Production student, Sophie Humphrey, and Amy Sutton, a graduate who is now a successful broadcast journalist at ITV, are two of 100 Faces that take centre stage in UUK’s new campaign. Both credit Solent for their support and approach to learning for helping them to succeed at university. 

While studying, Sophie has grabbed every opportunity that has come her way. A member of award-winning, student-led society Sonar Events, she has worked across various productions in sport and music, gaining hands-on experience alongside her studies. At the start of her third year, Sophie was named Student of the Year at the Rise Awards – a prestigious equality body in the broadcast industry that celebrates the successes of women, and she has taken part in various industry events, including with Sky and Microsoft. 

Sophie is a first-generation undergraduate who credits university for opening doors to the industry she will soon carve out a career in. She says:

“Without Solent, it’s unlikely I would have had the chance to connect with organisations in the media industry. Thanks to my teachers and peers, I’ve been able to take part in lots of initiatives that have increased my confidence and honed my skills.”

Solent goes out into the community to increase awareness of higher education, raise aspirations, and provide support to ensure prospective students are empowered when it comes to applying to university. Its student community is made up of 71% first in the family learners, highlighting an ethos of inclusion in higher education. Its priority is giving students the very best university experience possible, offering a wide range of guidance and support, including work experience, mentoring and development opportunities.

UUK has found that more than 70% of UK graduates experienced an increase in self-confidence at university, something that Amy Sutton can relate to. After overcoming ill health during her A Levels and applying to Solent via clearing – first studying a BA in Multimedia Journalism, followed by an MA in Public Relations and Multimedia Communications – Amy thrived at Solent, picking up work-ready skills that have enabled her to flourish as a successful broadcast journalist at ITV. 

Amy reports, produces and presents, and has worked on award-winning programmes; meeting members of the community to bring their stories into people’s homes. Alongside her work at ITV, Amy supports the next generation of broadcasting talent as a Senior Fellow at the John Schofield Trust. On the value of her time at Solent, she says, “At university, the expertise and support of staff on my course pushed me to secure invaluable industry experience that ultimately led to a job in the industry following graduation.

“University gave me the invaluable experience of moving to a new city and making friends I still cherish to this day. Solent prepared me to succeed!”

UUK’s 100 Faces campaign recognises the role of universities in driving social mobility – something Solent University is passionate about. In a recent discussion led by Rt Hon Justine Greening, the importance of universities creating opportunities for students during and after their studies was highlighted, alongside collaboration between higher education institutions and employers. 

Solent’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor James Knowles, says:

“We are proud to see members of our community feature in Universities UK’s 100 Faces. Their success, and this campaign, showcases just how integral a university is in providing a foundation for positive outcomes.  

“Our future-ready approach equips students, regardless of background, with the skills they need to thrive once they enter the world of work, and we will continue to work in partnership to ensure the financial support undergraduates need is in place.”

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