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UEL’s New Beginnings programme is nominated for prestigious Times Higher Education Award

Students outside Stratford library

The University of East London’s (UEL) pioneering New Beginnings programme has been shortlisted for a prestigious Times Higher Education (THE) Award.

The programme has been nominated in the ‘Widening Participation or Outreach Initiative of the Year’ category, which recognises the outstanding ways that higher education institutions are preparing people of all ages and walks of life to take the next step towards a degree. 

New Beginnings Programme Leader Dr Caroline McGlynn said, “New Beginnings is an outstanding programme that opens up university for so many people who would otherwise not have the chance of pursuing higher education, allowing them to improve their lives and reach their goals. This shortlisting is a richly deserved recognition of the passion and hard work of the New Beginnings team and colleagues who support the programme.”

New Beginnings specialises in preparing people who have been out of education for a long time, or do not have formal or sufficient qualifications, to start undergraduate degree study.

The programme offers a 10-week Regular course, an “Accelerated” course consisting of one day a week over five weeks, and an “Intensive” course delivered over five days. Students acquire skills such as critical reading, analytical thinking, library research, and academic writing. Courses run throughout the year.

University statistics show that 72 per cent of students who complete New Beginnings go on to achieve a first or 2:1 in their undergraduate degree.

Dean Curtis, UEL Acting Vice-Chancellor at the time, said, “I’m delighted that UEL has been shortlisted for this award, and wish to congratulate all those who ensure the programme makes a positive and lasting impact on the lives of its students.

“Inclusion and social mobility are top priorities for UEL, and the New Beginnings programme is one of the best examples in the sector of how that can be achieved. The students who come to UEL from New Beginnings exemplify the transformative power of education.”

Dr McGlynn is herself a New Beginnings graduate who returned to education after years of full-time work and taking care of her children, including a daughter with serious medical problems. She eventually earned not just an undergraduate degree, but a master’s degree and a PhD.

She said, “Widening participation is something that UEL does really well. If you want to go to university, you can do it, and we can help you.” 

Other former New Beginnings students include Paralympic shot put medal winner (and current UEL student) Vanessa Wallace, and Corinne Humphreys, who has represented England as a sprinter at Commonwealth and European championships. Corinne graduated from UEL this year with a first-class BA Advertising degree.

Bernadette Taylor, who is currently studying Fashion Design at UEL, arrived at New Beginnings at the age of 71. This year she won the Festival of Learning’s ‘Senior Adult Learner’ award, and was honoured at a ceremony at Parliament.

The Times Higher Education Awards dinner and ceremony will take place on 29 November at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, London.

THE Editor John Gill said, “It’s a genuine privilege for the THE team and our judges to read through these many and varied tales of excellence from all corners of the UK. It’s a significant achievement to make this shortlist, and we look forward to honouring all the finalists at the Grosvenor in November."