The Widening Participation and Student Services teams' at St Mary’s University, Twickenham have received three awards at the 2022 Aimhigher Practitioner Awards including Institution of the Year.
The annual Aimhigher Practitioner Awards celebrate the achievement and endeavour of school and college staff, Higher Education providers and Local Authorities who go that extra mile in the spirit of widening participation. Aimhigher London leads a network of over 50 partners in the education sector, with the aim of raising awareness of opportunity, supporting aspirations and enabling young people to make informed choices about their futures.
The St Mary’s Widening Participation team are key partners in the delivery of Aimhigher’s collaborative outreach programmes for schools and young people. By supporting both the wide-reaching Learner Progression Programme and the targeted Office for Students Uni Connect project, the team meet hundreds of young people each year.
By hosting large events on campus in Twickenham, and visiting other university partners to provide a contrasting outreach taster, St Mary’s Widening Participation team contributes efficiently and impartially to Aimhigher London’s careers education and aspiration-raising programmes.
At this year’s event, St Mary’s was nominated in four categories and won awards in three categories: Nancy Bentley, Widening Participation Manager at St Mary’s collected the Institution of the Year award on St Mary’s behalf. Accepting the award, Nancy thanked Aimhigher London for bringing all the partners together, saying, "The logistics of running big events and collaborative projects can be very hard, but I think that all of us as practitioners in schools, Local Authorities and universities – we do this work because it’s hard work, and we know the benefits for the young students involved can be so huge."
Current student Marie Nyvang won Ambassador of the Year for her outstanding contributions as a positive role model for young people. Speaking of her achievement, she said "I feel like all of us are giving it 100% when we work, and how they decided who should win is a mystery to me, but I'm very flattered to have won. I always put in all I can when I work, and winning the award makes it all worth it. It's the first award I've won on my own as well, which makes me even more proud to have won it. It's feelings I can't describe."
Disability and Dyslexia Manager at St Mary’s, Helen Duncan received the Aimhigher Champion Award for her continued commitment to the Aimhigher Disability Working Group. She has supported Aimhigher’s collaborative work even since before she joined St Mary’s Student Services. St Mary’s participates in several Aimhigher working groups, and as a core member of the Disability Working Group, Helen helps to share good practice with fellow HEI, college and school practitioners via the popular CPD programme for staff and advisors across the sectors.
Helen said "It was a pleasure to receive this award. I have been working with aim higher for about 10 years initially on the Specific Learning Differences (SpLD) learner conference - aimed at those with SpLD to aspire and transition to university, which I helped change to all prospective students with disabilities for subsequent years.
"Each year I have been involved in the planning and running of this conference and have also been involved in the planning and running of CPD conferences over the years. The CPD work is so important for sharing good practice and working effectively with schools and colleges on the processes and support mechanisms in the separate stages of education. This is so we are aware of how to successfully transition students and we have a good understanding of their educational route so far and challenges."
Mandip Birk, Senior Widening Participation Officer at St Mary's also attended the awards and was runner-up in the Outstanding Contribution to the Network category for her contribution to work with parents.
Find out more about Widening Participation and Outreach at St Mary’s on the University website.