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Northumbria University celebrates the impact of philanthropy at NUAMPLIFY

On Tuesday 28 November, Bdaily was given the opportunity to experience NUAMPLIFY, a ‘thank you’ event to recognise the people and organisations that generously volunteer their time to support Northumbria University’s students’ learning experiences, or contribute financially, providing opportunities for its students to study and succeed.

In attendance were an array of businesses, both of local and national presence, in addition to current students and alumni from the University. Everyone was eager to share their thoughts and experiences regarding the impact of philanthropy on the student experience. Read on to find out more…

Panel Introduction

NUAMPLIFY commenced with an insightful introduction from Professor Andy Long, Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive, Northumbria University, who had the following to say:

“It’s fitting that today’s event takes place on Giving Tuesday, which is a day of global giving and a day when we can formally recognise your generosity and celebrate the impact of your support, and I’d like to thank you for your remarkable commitment.

“Today marks the end of our latest appeal, ‘Many Hands Make Light Work’, which, running over the last three weeks, has raised £23k to support students facing financial hardship.

“On average, there is a monthly shortfall of £500 between the student maintenance loan and living costs, and in the last year the number of students who received hardship support from their University has nearly doubled.

“We’ve seen a 60 per cent increase at Northumbria and we expect this trend to continue. Funding for this appeal will enable us to help more students who are facing hardship.”

Peter Rolton, alumnus and donor with Indiana, scholarship recipient.

The Panel

Shortly after the Vice Chancellor’s reminder as to why everybody had gathered, a distinguished panel took to the stage to speak about the opportunities that financial support and scholarship programmes can offer students. First to speak on the topic was Alison Dunn.

Alison graduated in Law from Northumbria University in 2003. She has been CEO of Gateshead Citizens Advice Bureau for 11 years, during which time she has led its growth from £1.4m to over £4m turnover, now employing 180 staff. When prompted to speak on how experiential learning can benefit students, Alison made some sharp observations:

“We’ve had 15 years of austerity so for Northumbria students coming into a citizen’s advice, it’s an experience some have never encountered before, and that’s important because the gap between those who have and those who have not is greater than it has ever been.

“For students with different backgrounds, coming into a citizen’s advice and working with people that, perhaps, they’ve not been exposed to is a fantastic learning experience. We’re giving them an opportunity to experience work that is extremely challenging but very, very rewarding.”

Joining Alison on stage was Harry Hawes, a chartered accountant and experienced operations director at Ernst & Young, having established and built the Managed Services Centre of over 200 professionals. Reflecting on EY’s longstanding collaboration with Northumbria University, Harry shared the following:

“10 years ago when I started working in the Newcastle office there were 200 people. We’ve now got about 900 so we had to identify where we were going to recruit the talent and we tagged Northumbria as a ‘strategic partner for talent’ and built relationships, so we’ve worked closely on providing summer internships that developed into placements.

“We’ve now got 67 degree apprentices at Northumbria either beginning or finishing so it’s quite a big part of it, but coming back in and providing that practical experience support is very key.”

Next to share their insight was Laura James, Talent Development Manager, NE, at Enterprise Mobility. She is responsible for recruiting graduate talent in the North East, sourcing applicants, building relationships with key stakeholders and retaining candidates. Also eager to talk through Enterprise’s work with Northumbria, Laura explained:

“From an organisational perspective, Enterprise has partnered with Northumbria for decades primarily because we promote from within, so that means people who join our organisation climb through the ranks which is great for our employees, but it does present a bit of a challenge at our entry level.

Top left: Chris Jones, alumnus and donor, and Laura James, alumna and corporate donor with Enterprise.

“We have had the relationship with Northumbria to pull people through on our graduate and placement programmes for many years, and the reason we’ve worked so closely with Northumbria is because of the opportunities outside of the academic, be that the extracurricular activities or experiential learning.

“Northumbria students have proven to us time and time again that it isn’t just the piece of paper that they qualify with. It’s the softer skills, it’s the aptitude, it’s the drive and that has meant that we’ve had some very successful Northumbria alumni within our business.”

Vice-Chancellor and panel on stage.

Next to take to the stage was fiction writer and entrepreneur Chris Jones, who graduated with a BA in Accounting from the College of New Jersey and was a mobility exchange student on the BSc in Accounting and Business Administration at Northumbria University in 1990. Chris spoke candidly regarding his scholarship support with the University and the opportunities it has created:

“We do believe in everyone that we give our scholarships. We do believe in the effort invested and we’re all thrilled to be able to have this opportunity.

“We see it as an opportunity that we can help because we know how hard it is and we’ve all had those days where we’ve had to choose ‘Do I eat today or not?’ I think when you’ve had to make those decisions, it does reshape you and you keep that attitude of gratitude. This is an opportunity for us to always have an attitude of gratitude.”

Also, keen to share insight from an entrepreneurial perspective, Mark Renney graduated from Northumbria University in Computer Science in 2011 and is Co-Founder and Managing Director of Wubbleyou Ltd, a scaling software development business which facilitates increased profit through automation for its clients.

The company’s mission is to make people and businesses more efficient, using automation to reduce overheads and increase profitability. Mark recounted his experience setting up a fresh business and offered a humorous metaphor in the process:

“There are a lot of entrepreneurs starting their journey who could benefit from the experience of people who have been running businesses. So that’s why I like to interact with the enterprise scheme and the students here.

“I’ve heard before that running a business can be like chewing glass and I think when you do that by yourself that’s really hard. But if you’ve got a proper network around you of other people who are running businesses, even if it’s still like chewing glass, at least there are other people sharing the experience at the same time so it’s not too bad!

“I think every single business which comes out strong is just good for the local economy and benefits everyone. So that’s why I like to do what I do and give back in an experiential way.”

Rounding out the panel’s esteemed line-up was Doctor Paul Winters, former Executive Vice President & Managing Director of CACI, which supplies software, consultancy and managed services to SME and large enterprise clients in the public and private sectors. He worked at business consultancy CACI for 26 years and is now retired.

Sarah Lally, Version 1 corporate donor to Northumbria.

Concluding the panel’s discussion surrounding the vitality of bursary programmes and other financial support that Northumbria has in place for its students, Paul succinctly concluded:

“I think it’s important that all young people can realise whatever potential they have inside them, irrespective of their background. The idea that they might not go to university because of financial reasons is really heartbreaking, and so that’s why I think supporting hardship bursaries is a really important to do.”

Comments from students and attendees

One of the students who has benefited immensely from the financial support available at Northumbria University was Billy, who is studying for his Masters of Science in Strength and Conditioning. Sharing his experience Billy said:

“Receiving the Mobility Sports Scholarship has allowed me to spend more time focusing on my course, so it’s given me an opportunity to not have to get a job alongside my studies. I’ve been able to focus on studying and putting more time into coming into the University and using the facilities here.

“It has also given me different intern opportunities. I’ve been able to get an internship at a professional sports club which has allowed me to further my studies. It’s also allowed me to further my development as a sports student, playing sport myself, it’s allowed me to focus on that as well.”

Also proud to share the ways in which they were able to further themselves and their studies with the help of scholarships was Automotive Engineering student Indiana, who said the following:

“The impact of receiving the scholarship meant that I had more opportunities for placement and meeting donors for mentoring.”

Finally, we hear from Stephen, who is studying for his Masters in Creative Writing as a recipient of the Chris Jones Scholarship. He had this to say:

“The impact of receiving funding is that I’m able to relax to do my course and not worry about money and the cost of living. I have children to look after, and this smooths things along a lot easier. It also helps me to be a member of professional bodies like the Society of Authors and to maintain my digital presence by having my own website.”

Conclusion

NUAMPLIFY celebrated the impact and success of Northumbria’s Higher Education Without Barriers programme. With support from alumni, businesses, and charitable partners, it provides a range of financial initiatives, mental health & well-being services, and community-based projects, to make participation and progression in higher education more achievable for motivated students, regardless of their circumstances.

Thanks to generous donations of money and time, the Fund has raised over £2.8m, created 150 new scholarships, and supported more than 3,000 students since it launched in January 2022.


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