The Gold Scholarship Programme won the Highest Impact University Initiative Award at the upReach Student Social Mobility Awards held at the House of Lords on Thursday 9 September.

At the same event Gold Scholar Gracie Stavers, who is about to begin her second year studying MChem (hons) Chemistry with Industrial Training, won the Outstanding Achievement Award for her accomplishments, including overcoming health problems to develop new science resources for Bath schoolchildren, and winning a scientific essay competition open to undergraduates and postgraduates.

The awards celebrate and recognise the incredible achievements of undergraduates from lower socio-economic backgrounds from across the UK.

The Gold Scholarship Programme was established in 2017 and as well as significant financial support of £5,000 a year, offers scholars the chance to receive expert mentorship, network extensively and take part in 50 hours of volunteering each year. The intention is to provide scholars with the sorts of opportunities, ‘social capital’ and confidence that they might otherwise lack as they go through university and onto careers.

Liz Simmons, Scholarship & Bursary Enrichment Manager, said: “It’s really exciting to have won, our award was voted for by students so it’s extra special that the students have put us in that position.

“It’s not just me and my team, there are so many people across the University who work so hard to support the students, from our alumni team who fundraise for the scheme to Careers, the SU volunteering team and Placement Teams, and to staff who volunteer as mentors. The Vice Chancellor has been so supportive and Margaret White is our patron and that leadership support is so important.

“Hopefully this award recognition will raise the profile of social mobility at the University and demonstrate that we are genuinely committed to breaking down barriers and providing opportunities for all students.”

Earlier this year Gracie, who wants to pursue a career in astrochemistry, won the Edinburgh Women in Space Conference essay competition with an entry titled ‘Challenges in Low Earth Orbit for a Space Vehicle’. She said that undertaking the Gold Scholarship had given her the confidence to put herself forward and go for things, without worrying about whether she’d win or not – and that she’d encourage everyone to do the same.

Speaking about the awards, she said: “I had the chance to read the other nominations and I thought they were nine amazing people who had done so much. When they called my name I just froze, I never thought I'd win as a first year student against graduates, I thought I was going to cry!

“I think the GSP has been amazing, Liz, Rachel and Clare (the Gold Team) have just been so supportive, they really have such a comforting energy around them.

“Without the GSP I would have needed to get a job alongside full time education, and because I have fibromyalgia and ME I get tired a lot of the time and have alot of pain, especially when moving, and it would have been too exhausting and hard to keep going with my education.

“I’ve just finished my first year and I’m in such a better place than I otherwise would be – we’ve been taught about how to network like a professional, the volunteering really puts you out there and now I have so much to put on my CV as I start to look for placements, which is something I was worried about.”

Liz added: “Supporting students is a passion of mine and something I really believe in and it’s been fantastic to develop to where we have a team of three supporting 200 scholars, and we even have our first mentors from Gold Scholars who graduated last year. It’s amazing to have the chance to see the things they achieve, the resilience they have, the confidence they develop from feeling that the University believes in them, the jobs they go on to have – it’s phenomenal.”

You can find out more about the Gold Scholarship Programme, including how to support the scheme as a mentor, here.

You can also donate to fund a Gold Scholarship and help a young person to flourish at Bath, from a one-off or monthly donation through to setting up a scholarship in your name. Find out more here.