National report highlights impact of Chester’s careers and equality initiatives.

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A national report as leading the way in higher education has highlighted work by the University of Chester to support students’ career aspirations and promote equality, diversity and inclusion.

Run by the University’s Careers and Employability team, the institution’s Anonymised Recruitment to Workplace Experiences and Inspiring Futures initiatives are featured in the new ‘University Best Practice White Paper’.

White Papers are Government publications, with this Paper celebrating the role that universities play in spreading opportunity, and setting out some of the actions and projects that are having a direct impact on students and communities. These include widening participation activities, collaboration with local businesses and case studies from students whose lives have been turned around by higher education.

The award-winning Anonymised Recruitment scheme for Workplace Experiences saw a move away from using a traditional CV and cover letter recruitment process to an anonymous application process. Eradicating unconscious bias, it puts “what a student can do now and how they can develop” above “who they are and what they have done”.

The Inspiring Futures programme delivers careers-related activities and support aimed at addressing the particular needs of students from under-represented backgrounds. One of the strands of the programme is Inspiring Futures Workplace Experiences – paid extra-curricular placements with employers and organisations.

Both initiatives led to increased engagement by some of the University’s most under-represented students for applications and appointments.

The ‘University Best Practice White Paper’ was produced by former Education Secretary, Rt Hon Justine Greening’s Purpose Coalition – a group of businesses, universities and public sector organisations.

It was launched at an event in Parliament with speeches from Justine Greening, Munira Wilson, MP for Twickenham and the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Education, and Professor Steven West, Vice-Chancellor of the University of West England Bristol and President of Universities UK.

Vikki Brockhurst, Student Success Manager (Careers and Employability team) and Sara Lawton, who leads on Access and Participation, from the University of Chester, attended the launch earlier this month.

Sara said: “Promoting equality, diversity and inclusion to give all our students the same opportunities to succeed is fundamental to us and at the core of our Citizen Student strategy.

“We are seeing the difference new initiatives are making and are delighted to share our learning and practices.”

Vikki added: “We are honoured to be part of this celebration of best practice, have the impact of our work in Careers and Employability acknowledged in this way, and look at how together we can open up opportunity more equally across the UK.”

Rt Hon Justine Greening said: “Our ‘University Best Practice White Paper’ is full of brilliant, practical examples of levelling up. Not only does it highlight opportunities being spread to those from under-represented backgrounds but also the wider impact that universities can have through research, procurement and many other things. It has never been a more important time to reap the wider benefits of the successful approaches contained in this paper, as the levelling up debate necessarily shifts onto practical solutions.

“Moving forward there is a huge opportunity to develop the role that universities play as anchor institutions. Having worked hard on widening participation, universities have key insights that can be used more widely. There is no doubt in my mind that our universities should be at the centre of the UK’s levelling up plans.”

The publication of the White Paper comes after the Careers and Employability team won the Levelling Up Universities Award for Right Advice and Experience for its Anonymised Recruitment initiative. The Awards recognise those Higher Education Institutions and their staff that are committed to boosting social mobility and improving equality of opportunity and are hosted by Justine Greening.

The team also reached the final shortlist in the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion category at the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Service’s (AGCAS) Awards for Excellence for their work around Anonymised Recruitment to Workplace Experiences – and Adam Crane from the University won the prestigious Outstanding Contribution Award for his impact on student and graduate employability. The judges highlighted his work to ensure fairness in recruitment to workplace experiences.

The report can be seen here. The University of Chester case studies are on pages 18 and 19.

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