The University of Strathclyde has received nearly £100,000 from the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng), as part of a programme addressing unequal outcomes experienced by students from diverse and underrepresented groups.

Strathclyde is one of 11 UK universities awarded grants under RAEng’s Diversity Impact Programme, which aims to ensure that the unique perspectives and experiences of engineers from diverse backgrounds continue to enhance the profession.

The Strathclyde Engineering Scholars project will establish a comprehensive, personalised ‘in-kind’ scholarship programme, enabling those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds to access and successfully navigate university engineering education with equal outcomes, before transitioning to professional graduate employment in alignment with their peers.

Half of engineering students from disadvantaged backgrounds will not complete their degree and those who do demonstrate lower attainment and are typically men.

The 18-month project will use its £99,751 funding to recruit more than 100 mentors from Strathclyde students and industry, to offer tutoring and mentoring to prospective and incoming students. Each participant will receive a personalised pathway, designed to meet their specific requirements, with additional training and online courses.

Outreach courses, in the form of individual and group sessions, will also be offered to schools and community groups. In addition, industry mentors will develop case study videos that will be available online and will host live events.

The programme has the potential to reach more than 1000 young people in total.

Dr Avril Thomson, a Reader in Strathclyde’s Department of Design, Manufacturing and Engineering Management, is leading the project. She said: “Everyone with the desire and talent has the right to access and succeed in engineering education and the prospect of an exciting career as a professional engineer. We are aiming to reach young people from as diverse a range of backgrounds as possible in this project.

“Participants will benefit from the peer support of fellow students and from the experience and knowledge of Strathclyde’s rich industry links, all of which will help them to build confidence and resilience. 

“We are hoping that the project will become circular and that those who are mentored on it will go on to become mentors themselves. We are grateful for the support of the Royal Acacemy of Engineering, which will help us to achieve this goal.”

RAEng Chief Executive Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE said: “The Academy’s new Diversity Impact Programme has been designed to support universities in making a step change in diversity and inclusivity across engineering Higher Education.

“Our goal is to help universities to develop interventions, informed by evidence, that transform the outcomes of students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds. It is vital that we seek innovative and creative ways to accelerate the pace of change rather than accepting that incremental improvement is all that is possible.

“There is an extensive evidence base supporting the benefits of diverse teams working in inclusive cultures but there is still a way to go in understanding how to deliver the culture of inclusion that unlocks the power of diversity. These projects will give us invaluable insights and experience that will be shared across the Higher Education community so that we can work collectively to drive positive change.”

All grant recipients have demonstrated a commitment to transformative change and will join a community of practice to facilitate learning across the cohort of grantees and the wider engineering higher education sector.

The programme is funded through the Academy’s allocation of funding from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The project is the latest in a broad range of Strathclyde initiatives for widening access to higher education, which by 2021 had helped the University to exceed Scottish Government targets 10 years ahead of schedule. They include:

  • Breaking Barriers, an award-winning programme which gives young people with learning disabilities access to education and work experience opportunities
  • the Strathclyde Cares programme – the first of its kind in the UK – which helps students with experience of the care system throughout their higher education journey, from pre-application to graduation and beyond
  • the Engineering Academy, which offers students routes into university and employment
  • Accelerate, a one-week programme for pupils who in S5 and S6 who are considering going to university. It aims to provide a targeted focus on the pupils’ chosen area of academic interest
  • the Centre for Lifelong Learning, one of the foremost providers of education to people in later life.