De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has been named as the University of the Year for Social Inclusion by The Sunday Times Good University Guide.
DMU was chosen for the award due to its diverse population and the success of its students in exams and graduate job prospects.
Compared to the rest of the university sector, DMU has significantly higher proportions of students from ethnic minorities, students from disadvantaged backgrounds and students aged 21 and above. One in five DMU students also declare a disability.
Through DMUfreedom, the university’s equality charter, launched in 2016, the university works to ensure all students equally have the freedom to succeed.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Dominic Shellard said the award was recognition of DMU being an institution where all staff and students are afforded the respect, inspiration, space and support to reach their full potential.
Professor Shellard said: "This is a very welcome acknowledgement of our university’s fundamental commitment to embrace and empower students from all backgrounds, to give them each the opportunity to develop their talent, work hard and succeed, and to encourage them, as graduates, to make a difference in society.
"The breadth and depth of diversity at DMU is something we pride ourselves on and something our students frequently cite as a key reason they enjoy their time here. I hope that DMU’s award is an encouragement to others to recognise the role that education plays in demonstrating the strength that diversity brings to communities, and to society a whole."
Alastair McCall, editor of The Sunday Times Good University Guide, said: “De Montfort shows that social inclusion and academic success are not either/or options.
"It was the clear winner of our inaugural University of the Year for Social Inclusion award for its policies to encourage a diverse student population on campus and then demanding that they go on to achieve as well as is expected of students drawn from more privileged backgrounds. It provides a template that many other higher education institutions would do well to follow."
The Freedom to Achieve project is DMU’s commitment to embracing cultural diversity for success and is central to coordinating the work to close the attainment gap for BAME students and ensuring that all students have equality of access within their education.
Kaushika Patel, Deputy Dean for the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences and project lead for Freedom to Achieve, said: "At DMU we passionately believe that all students should be empowered to achieve their potential.
"Freedom to Achieve is a multi-faceted programme which aims to identify and remove barriers which prevent our students from achieving their full potential during their time studying at DMU.
"We have made great strides in closing the attainment gap and it is fantastic to see that reflected in this award."
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Jessica Okwuonu, De Montfort Students’ Union (DSU) Vice-President Welfare and Community, said: "DMU winning this award is a huge achievement. It’s really important that students can see that DMU is a safe environment and somewhere that they can really be themselves."
Geraldine Williams grew up in the care system and had a daughter before deciding to enrol at DMU as a mature student to study Biomedical Science. She excelled during her time at university, being named Student of the Year by the Leicester Mercury and graduating in 2017.
She said: "I’m grateful for all of the opportunities I’ve experienced at DMU and especially for the staff. If it wasn’t for the support of my lecturers and all of the staff at DMU then I wouldn’t be where I am now.
"I never felt out of place at DMU, when I arrived it was great to see so many different people. You don’t stand out, everybody is from different backgrounds and everybody has a story to tell."
Posted on Friday 21st September 2018