A national award for boosting opportunities for young people has been won by Make Happen, based at the University of Essex and part of the Office for Students’ UniConnect programme.
The Levelling Up Universities Awards recognise higher education institutions and their staff for their commitment to boosting opportunities for young people.
Make Happen was recognised for the way its helped students through the UCAS application process despite the challenges posed by Covid-19.
The Awards were hosted by former Education Secretary Rt Hon Justine Greening and former Skills and Apprenticeship Minister Rt Hon Anne Milton.
The categories are based around the Levelling Up goals launched earlier this year by Justine Greening. The goals provide a benchmark for activity focused on driving equality of opportunity from early years through to careers, alongside barriers such as the digital divide, health, and infrastructure.
Make Happen’s award was in recognition of the goal of Positive destinations Post 16+ and the winning project has helped and supported students through the UCAS university application process, against the challenges of a pandemic where no school or university visits were possible.
Stephen Pomfret, Head of Make Happen, said: “We’re dedicated to unlocking opportunities for young people across Essex by helping them make informed choices about their education and future.
“As part of this we demystify all aspects of going to university – from the application process through to what it costs to study for a degree. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, this past year we’ve continued to help students find out more about applying through UCAS and reach their aspirations, through a varied programme of online webinars and support.
“It’s been challenging and rewarding and I’m so proud of the team, but also it’s great to see our work recognised in the sector and by a former education secretary.”
Ms Greening said: “Following on from the success of the Levelling Up Awards earlier this year, we wanted to specifically focus on the amazing work being done in universities across the UK. It was great to see so many inspirational universities and leaders in the sector being celebrated at Levelling Up Universities Awards.
“Accelerated by the pandemic and the challenges that this has brought us, we are seeing a real shift in expectations of universities and their role as anchor institutions with communities. The Levelling Up Goals are a powerful new framework for organisations to map their own impact and identify where more can be done. I’d like to say a huge congratulations to all our winners and thank them for leading the way on the levelling up agenda.”
Make Happen is based at the University of Essex and is one of 29 Office for Students UniConnect national partnerships that bring together teachers from schools and colleges, with universities and other local educational partners, to offer activities, advice and information on the benefits and realities of going to university or college, to study a degree or take a degree apprenticeship.
This is with a particular focus on areas where participation in higher education is lower than might be expected, given the GCSE results of the young people who live there. By 2020 the initiative had reached more than 75,000 students across the county of Essex through activities ranging from university taster days to mentoring programmes, and study skills workshops to aspirational careers programmes.