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MDX alumni feature in campaign highlighting the success of students who were the first in their family to attend university

15/04/2024
The extraordinary achievements of MDX students is being highlighted in a new national Universities UK campaign

Middlesex alumni Nicolette Porter and Lord Simon Wooley are featured in the Universities UK (UUK) campaign, “100 Faces”,  being launched today (15/4).

“100 Faces” celebrates the stories and achievements of students who were the first in their family to go to university. The campaign amplifies their voices by exploring their background, what they’re doing now, and how going to university changed their lives. As part of the campaign UUK and increase support for future students from the least privileged backgrounds.

Lord Simon Woolley graduated from Middlesex in 1993 with a degree in Politics and Spanish.  In 2018, he was appointed by the then Prime Minister, Theresa May, to lead the Government’s pioneering Race Disparity Unit. He received a knighthood in 2019 and was appointed to the Lords where he sits today as a Crossbencher. In 2021 he was elected Principal of Homerton College, Cambridge – the first Black man to lead an Oxbridge College. Commenting on his time in higher education he said:

“It's crazy to think a four-year experience can be so transformative, but that's how I see my time at Middlesex. Now, as the first Black male head of an Oxbridge college, I've come full circle. Education is best when it enriches the soul and empowers the individual to hopefully do extraordinary things: not just for themselves, but for a better, fairer society.”

Nicolette Porter graduated from Middlesex in Midwifery in 2022. She won Student Midwife of the Year in the 2021 Nursing Times Awards and led research with Midwifery Lecturer Emilie Edwards calling for change on how universities and NHS employers can support neurodivergent students and staff. Describing how university changed her life, Nicolette said:

"Attending university for my midwifery education has been transformative, significantly impacting both my professional and personal life. In essence, going to university has not only prepared me for my role but has also influenced my identity as a healthcare provider."

UUK’s ‘100 Faces campaign’ aims to champion and celebrate the positive impact of ‘first-in-the-family’ (FitF) graduates on the UK in order to highlight the need for access to support, and ensure the next generation can reach their graduate potential.

“Middlesex is delighted to support this campaign. The experiences of Lord Woolley and Nicolette demonstrate how universities change lives and pathways. Whether you go on to be a midwife, nurse, teacher, lawyer, run your own business, fashion designer or a sit in the Lords and lead an Oxbridge college, going to university can change the course of your career and life. We need to ensure that as wide a range of people as possible have the chance to go to university and for that to happen more financial support is needed for those from the least privileged backgrounds.”   Professor Julia Clarke, Interim Vice-Chancellor, Middlesex University

As part of the campaign, new research commissioned by UUK, includes experiences of 6,004 UK graduates and 4,006 non-graduates, aged 24-40. Key findings include:

  • Almost three quarters (73%) of FitF students agree their degree gave them the confidence to apply for jobs without feeling like an imposter.
  • Without financial support, more than 4 in 10FitF graduates couldn’t have afforded to go to university at all. This is equivalent to around 1.1 million 24–40-year-olds in England and Wales.
  • With financial provisions dwindling and the cost of living rising, UUK is calling for government to reinstate maintenance grants and increase support for future students.

Many graduates responding to the UUK survey were eligible for non-repayable maintenance grants as students, which were replaced by repayable loans, in England in 2016, although maintenance grants continue to operate in Wales, Scotland and for some healthcare courses in England. In light of this, UUK is campaigning to ensure that future generations don’t miss out on the transformative impact of a university education.

Vivienne Stern MBE, Chief Executive of Universities UK, commented:

“There are those who say that too many people go to university. I disagree. These stories tell you why. In this country you are still twice as likely to go to university if you are from the wealthiest background, compared to the least wealthy. That’s not right.”

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