An initiative delivered by De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) to help students from ethnic minority groups gain job confidence has beaten a record number of nominees to win a national award.
Last night, at the Times Higher Education (THE) awards – widely recognised as the ‘Oscars’ of higher education – DMU won the ‘Outstanding Support for Students’ award.
The accolade is in recognition of the university’s ‘Make Diversity Your Business’ conference – a ground-breaking event that brought together 30 Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students and 30 local employers to explore solutions for increasing diversity in graduate recruitment.
“I am over the moon to have won this award because we really tried to do something different with Leicester's Future Leaders – and it succeeded,” said Adele Browne, Head of Graduate Success at DMU.
“We brought our business community and students together as equals to talk about barriers to employment on both sides. The professional conference setting gave the students a brilliant new experience and long-lasting boost to their confidence, while the businesses were so impressed with the students that they directly offered them internships and have since developed follow-up programmes with DMU.”
The conference, which took place in February 2020, was part of the Leicester’s Future Leaders project, which is co-funded by the Office for Students and aims to get more students from diverse backgrounds into high-skilled roles in the city.
2020 graduate Josiah Hyacinth, who held a role as student lead in the project, was invited to the THE awards ceremony at the Hilton London Metropole Hotel.
He said: “Taking part of this experience was life changing for me. Not only did I get the opportunity to represent important voices within my student community but, I got to make an input to build a structure which will hopefully continue to impact the student – graduate experience.
“This was an important legacy to leave behind because just like many students, as they rounded up their studies, there will always be important decisions to make. This was my reality at that point, and I was honoured to not only have a seat, but to be a valued voice in the whole project as a whole.
“I left the project with an increased sense of pride, and competence. This is how every student should leave their studies, and I believe this project not only inspired other students to diversify their view of the working world and their endless potential within it, but I can firmly testify that many students did feel that way.”
Working in partnership with local businesses Brewin Dolphin, Freeths LLP and Eileen Richards Recruitment, the Make Diversity Your Business conference was the first step in creating a toolkit to help employers attract diverse graduate talent and has led to spin-off projects that support student employability.
DMU Vice-Chancellor Professor Katie Normington said: “It is always an honour even just to be shortlisted in the THE awards alongside many worthy nominees across the sector, so to secure this win is a fantastic achievement and a real credit to our Careers and Employability team, for their unwavering commitment to supporting our students.
“The Make Diversity Your Business conference was a fresh new approach that helped students meet local employers and boost their confidence, while helping local businesses recruit and retain a more diverse workforce. Huge congratulations to all involved.”
This year’s THE awards celebrate achievements during the 2019-20 academic year, when the Covid-19 pandemic forced widespread campus shutdowns. As ever, they cover the full range of university activity – both academic and professional services, from front-line staff through all levels of leadership and management.
DMU was also shortlisted in the ‘Research Project of the Year (STEM)’ category in recognition of a study by DMU scientist Dr Sarah Hall which proved that fabrics with skin creams and lotions dried on can catch fire significantly faster than clean material and therefore pose a serious risk of injury or even death.
John Gill, THE’s editor, said universities had excelled in “unprecedented circumstances”.
“The Times Higher Education Awards have been recognising outstanding achievements in UK higher education for the best part of two decades, but never before have they shone a light on the level of effort and creativity that was demanded of universities throughout the 2019-20 academic year," he added.
"The response required, and delivered, in the face of a global pandemic was unique, and many of the awards submissions reflected those unprecedented circumstances. But universities’ great strength is not just that they respond to circumstances, but that they also provide a level of constancy at times of uncertainty and change.
"2019-20 was not just a year of pandemic disruption, it was also a year in which incredible achievements were made in all the areas you would hope and expect: world-changing research, brilliant learning and teaching, international and industrial engagement, and the full gamut of activities that run through universities like words through a stick of rock.”
Posted on Friday 26th November 2021