Posted Thursday 3 November 2022
A pioneering programme of work designed to ensure students from all backgrounds have the support, skills and opportunities to succeed in their graduate careers has been launched by Kingston University, in partnership with The Mohn Westlake Foundation.
The Centre for Graduate Success will bring together and expand upon a range of activities across the University, from its sector-leading outreach work with schools, colleges and community organisations to personal development and targeted support for student groups who face additional obstacles in the labour market.
Funded by a £1.7m award from The Mohn Westlake Foundation, the centre's work aims to address the national issue of students from disadvantaged and minoritised groups benefiting less from their degrees than students from other backgrounds. The programme will seek to narrow gaps in graduate outcomes, recognising and addressing the specific challenges and structural disadvantages some students have to overcome.
Ensuring young people had the tools to make informed choices about their career path and develop skills required by employers would form a core part of the centre's activity, head of graduate outcomes and employability skills Ali Orr said. "The Centre for Graduate Success will provide a framework of support through the entire student lifecycle – starting with providing more than 100 schools across our region with access to careers and employability resources and support, through to building career resilience and personal development for students during their time at university and beyond," he said.
Targeted initiatives, such as the KU Cares scheme for care leavers and young adult carers, and the award-winning ELEVATE accelerator programme that supports students of Black heritage to achieve their full potential, would form a key part of efforts to help eliminate disparities in graduate outcomes and ensure all students had equal opportunity for success.
"Putting in place comprehensive support for specific student groups builds on the good work we do in access and inclusion, leading to good graduate careers, empowering students and helping with the transition from education to the workplace. Through these programmes we also work directly with employers to address structural issues affecting employment prospects," Mr Orr said.
Alongside this activity, the centre will oversee the embedding of skills for innovation across the University curriculum through the Navigate programme – building on the University's Future Skills campaign to tackle the nation's skills shortages. Following a pilot project this academic year, all courses will incorporate personal development sessions into modules that equip students with the communication, problem solving and creative thinking skills employers say they are looking for.
Several Kingston University graduates have been recruited to work within the centre, drawing on their own experiences when running the various strands of the programme's work, Mr Orr said. "The funding from The Mohn Westlake Foundation has provided us with the resource across three years to expand and test what works before sharing back with the sector, bringing on board graduates who know exactly what our students are going through and the support and interventions they may need," he added.
Law graduate Faustina Edward will focus on the personal development of students within the curriculum – an integral element of the University's new Town House Strategy. The 26 year old from Saint Lucia previously worked in supporting young people through community youth development activities in her home country before going into higher education. "Having studied at Kingston I know how inclusive an environment it has, so I jumped at the chance to apply for this role," Faustina, who was president of the Kingston University Law Society during her studies, said. "The sessions around future skills we are planning will help provide students with the tools, confidence and skillset they need to become sought-after by top employers."
Rochelle Watson, who completed an undergraduate degree in working with children and young people and a masters in psychology at the University, will be working on targeted support programmes, including expansion of the award-wining ELEVATE scheme. Her time as a student ambassador and an equality, diversity, and inclusion leader at the institution provided her with valuable experience in understanding the needs of a range of diverse student groups.
"I'm excited to be part of a team that will place a real focus on promoting participation for students who may come from underrepresented or disadvantaged backgrounds," she said. "I have experienced various difficulties as a result of wider systemic barriers during my own educational journey so I know the difference higher education can make to people's lives. Our work across the centre will help students to overcome barriers to success and really grow in confidence."
The Mohn Westlake Foundation, set up by Marit Mohn and her son Stian Westlake, aims to make a difference to the lives of young people by providing opportunities they may not otherwise have had, through education, performing arts, or other activities.