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Social Inclusion Award – Bath Spa University

University of the Year for Social Inclusion

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Bath Spa University named as Sunday Times University of the Year for Social Inclusion

Friday, 15 September, 2023

A blue background with the words Bath Spa University has been named as the University of the Year for Social Inclusion by The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024.

The top place was awarded to Bath Spa in recognition of its commitment to empowering students from all backgrounds with the opportunity to study and thrive in higher education, helping people develop skills today that will set them apart in the future.  

Professor Sue Rigby, Vice-Chancellor at Bath Spa University:

"Anyone with ability and passion should be able to study in higher education and change their lives by doing so.

“Through our work, alone and with our partners, we are changing lives and upskilling to grow the economy. Taking students on a journey from their starting point to the award of a degree is a privilege and a challenge.

“We know that creativity, curiosity and confidence are key to success in the jobs market or in setting up a business. We embed these skills and attributes in teaching focussed on the needs of our students, wherever that learning is delivered.

“Alongside our First Class People and Planet Award for environmental and ethical performance, Gold Mark for Social Enterprise, and First Class Green Gown Award nomination, we are delighted to accept this recognition of the steps we are taking towards becoming a beacon for social inclusion, fairness and sustainability." 

Professor of Social and Creative Enterprise at Bath Spa University, Andy Salmon said:

“We know from talking to our employer partners they are looking for a diverse workforce, people who break the mould with professional creativity at their core, only by empowering and supporting students from a wide and inclusive set of backgrounds will this come to fruition.” 

Bath Spa University has also climbed a further three places in the main Good University League Table. This is the fourth year in a row that the University has improved rankings.

Bath Spa University was named as First Class in the People & Planet's University League and is a double finalist in the UK Social Enterprise of the Year Awards

Bath Spa University has a community of 13,000 students and 1,100 staff (2021-22 HESA). Its London centre (Bath Spa University London) delivers programmes in business and health care, and has also franchised and validated provisions at a number of partners in the UK and overseas.

Bath Spa is considered sector-leading in its inclusive approach to higher education, with nearly one-third of entrants in 2020-21 identifying as disabled or neurodiverse. 

Over the past two years Bath Spa University has launched a wide range of Skills Bootcamps and short courses in 15 different subjects and helped over 570 learners improve their digital skills and take the next step on their career journey, with an additional 100 learners enrolled on courses starting soon. Skills Bootcamps are fully funded courses of up to 16 weeks, giving adult learners the opportunity to retrain, pursue a career in a new field or start their own business. They have been developed by the Government as part of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee and Plan for Jobs, in partnership with employers, providers, and local authorities, further widening the University’s inclusion parameters and making education available to as many people as possible. 

Professor Rachid Hourizi, Director at the Institute of Coding, said:

“We're incredibly proud at the Institute of Coding to be working with Bath Spa University and their shared vision and passion for driving inclusivity. Together we have forged thousands of new vocational opportunities and pathways for non-traditional students in the public and private sectors. We’d like to congratulate Bath Spa University for their well-deserved award as The Times Inclusive University of the Year. We look forward to continuing to work with Bath Spa on our Click Start programme.” 

Helen Davies, Editor of The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide, said: 

“The higher education landscape has never been tougher. It means any prospective student, parent or carer needs to think hard about whether university is the right choice, and then where to study and what subject. It’s where this guide — our 30th edition — is here to help. Our online version has so much more on how the universities compare subject by subject, a guide on campus life, and what scholarships and bursaries may be on offer. We are here to champion the ambitious work of our first-class universities, and the aspirations of any student of any age who wants to keep on learning.”  

“Bath Spa is our University of the Year for Social Inclusion after rocketing 65 places into the top 20. The university has opened a London centre and this, as well as new franchise partnerships, has changed the student profile, bringing in more mature students (up from 17.7 per cent to 71.7 per cent year-on-year) and more from black and ethnic minority groups (up from 8.6 per cent to 31.4 per cent). The university’s efforts to prioritise people, communities and the environment have earned it the Social Enterprise Gold Mark — one of only five awarded to UK universities.” – Sunday Times Good University Guide.

Bath Spa University staff, student and graduate stories 

Gilbert Sabiti, Bath Spa University Graphic Communications (now BA Graphic Design) graduate, said: “I’m a first-generation immigrant from Rwanda. Growing up in South Wales, Newport, within a working-class background, I embarked on a transformative journey. My pursuit of knowledge led me to Bath Spa University, where I dedicated myself to studying Graphic Communication. What made my time at Bath Spa great was the freedom it provided to be authentic. The University not only honed my graphic communication skills but also offered a space for networking and building lifelong connections. Throughout my course, I seized every opportunity to develop my skills and expand my knowledge.”

Laura Bold, Vice President of Welfare and Community at Bath Spa University Students’ Union, said: "Universities and the student movement have, historically, been ahead of the trend on inclusion and progressive practice and it's encouraging to see Bath Spa (and the people who do the work) recognised for their dedication to addressing social inequities which are so deeply rooted in the world. This is a milestone for Bath Spa and I believe we will find ways to do better each year."

Carl Anka, is a Bath Spa University graduate, journalist, broadcaster and author, and recently became an honorary Doctor of Arts at the University. Accepting his award and addressing the students, he said: "University is a place of academic study, yes, but perhaps more importantly university is where you learn how to learn. You spent years at Bath Spa University chasing academic and personal pursuits, while also learning parts of your personality as they unfolded in front of you...You sit here now equipped with the tools to have a positive impact on your life, the lives of people around you and the world around you as well. Use your education to try and address the pressing challenges of our time.”

Milly Aburrow, BA Fine Art (Hons) Bath Spa University graduate, said: “Bath Spa could not have been more supportive of my passion for fine art, and my disability. The technicians on my course, my tutors and all the staff helped me to find ways to do everything I wanted to do. I've had Cerebral Palsy since birth and have always dreamt of being an artist. In my final year at University, I showcased my collection in the Undergraduate degree show and won the Kenneth Armitage Young Sculptor Prize. Now I am working full time as an artist, and I'm the graduate resident artist at 44AD Artspace in the centre of Bath. Saying no is never an answer at Bath Spa, we always find a way."

Coral Manton, Subject Leader for Creative Computing at Bath Spa University, said: “I firmly believe that if we have diversity within a group of people who come together to do something creative, they're going to make far more interesting work than if they sit in a room full of people who are into the same types of things that they're into. I think sometimes there's this idea, and not an unreasonable one, that the game communities that we hear about don't necessarily feel like safe spaces for everyone. But games are really, really diverse. It's such a huge industry. I want to show my students that people like them do make games and are successful.”

Rumyana Nedeva, a 38-year-old Business and Management student at Bath Spa University London, said: “I grew up in Burgas, an amazing town in Bulgaria on the seaside. I chose Bath Spa University London because I wanted to improve my career. My goal was to open my own business. I have always received support from my tutors and have used the language support services as well. Bath Spa London helped me to improve my skills and confidence. I am proud of my achievements. I am more confident that I can accomplish even better. Currently, I am working as a financial assistant in a private college. For the long term, I am planning to open my own business.”

Adeyinka Akinrinade is a BA (Hons) Performing Arts (now BA (Hons) Acting) Bath Spa University graduate who recently landed a leading role in primetime ITV show, Riches, she said: "I learnt so much whilst studying at Bath Spa, but the biggest thing was how varied the course was. As well as developing and learning about ourselves as actors, we also got to learn about other roles in the industry. University is the place to try, fail and play. It’s okay to get things wrong, you’re learning. As long as you give it go, you never know where you might end up. I thought I was strictly going to be an actor and just study acting, but I left Bath Spa University knowing so much about producing and now do both."

Megan Robertson, Bath Spa University Equalities Officer and BA Hons English Literature and Drama and MA Arts Management graduate from Bath Spa University: “When I think back to 18-year-old Meg doing her BA, struggling with anxiety and a recent dyslexia diagnosis, I love thinking about how much I changed from then to my third year and Masters. Bath Spa has always been such an important space for me. I grew at Bath Spa, I found out I was dyslexic, I figured out my sexuality and began a journey of supporting my mental health too. When I worked in the SU I got to speak in committees alongside the Vice Chancellor and other Senior Leaders and grew in confidence because they gave me that space and opportunity and listened to what I had to say.”

Gemma Burton, a 42-year-old mum and Graphic Communications (now BA Graphic Design) graduate from Bath Spa University, said: “I’m a 42-year-old mum of two from Yeovil, and a Graphic Communications graduate from Bath Spa with a dream of wanting to create brands for a living. I gave up my previous career in retail management to have children. During my time at home, I was PTA chair and I set up a small business which I sold when I enrolled at university. I wanted to learn how to create a brand and change my career trajectory, Bath Spa helped me do so while simultaneously juggling children.”

Dr Jermaine Ravalier, Professor in Organisational Psychology and Social Justice at Bath Spa University: “I’m the first person in my family to go to university. Although my dad went soon after me. I’m also the first person in my family to do a PhD. I had a very working class upbringing. I was brought up by my Mum with my sister and my brother in a council estate in West London. Now, when I look back at things like the crime rate, I realise it probably wasn’t the best place to grow up, but I had loads and loads of friends and I loved it there.”

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