University support helps students to realise their potential

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Support provided by the University of Stirling to those traditionally under-represented in higher education was highlighted to policymakers during an event at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 6th February.

The parliamentary reception, organised by Universities Scotland, highlighted the work that Scotland’s 19 higher education institutions are undertaking to drive a step forward in widening access.

Shumela Ahmed

Shumela Ahmed graduates from the University in 2017.

The University of Stirling is committed to enabling students from all backgrounds to achieve their full potential, and actively encourages applications from non-traditional groups. Students are selected on both ability and potential, with a range of tailored support packages in place to assist students facing particular challenges during their time at university. The University’s long-standing record of success in driving access to higher education reflects its commitment to be an institution where ability – not background – is valued.

Working closely with schools and colleges, the University actively helps to raise the aspirations of those less likely to consider continuing into higher education, and supports a range of routes into University. Specific support is also available for students with a background in care, or those whose studies may be disrupted because they care for friends or family members.

'Transformational experience'

Shumela Ahmed is one of the increasing number of Stirling graduates who have returned to education through the University’s Access Programme. Having left school at the age of 14 with no formal qualifications, Shumela initially assumed that was the end of her academic journey.

However, after earning a place on a BBC Scotland Apprenticeship in Glasgow in her early 20s, Shumela was inspired to pursue a degree in journalism. Thanks to the University Access Programme, she was able to gain a place on a degree, and graduated with a BA (Hons) in Journalism and Politics in 2017.

Shumela is now undertaking a teaching qualification, and works to raise awareness of the University’s support for students from non-traditional backgrounds.

University of Stirling’s Deputy Principal, Professor Leigh Sparks, who attended the reception, said: 'A university experience can be life changing. However, we know that for some individuals, getting to university can feel like an impossible goal, while for others personal circumstances can make full time study very challenging. That’s why the University of Stirling has a dedicated team to advise and support students from a range of non-traditional backgrounds, ensuring that their time at university is as rich and fulfilling as any other.'

Shumela Ahmed, University of Stirling Widening Participation Ambassador, said: 'My experience at university has been transformational. From someone with no qualifications whatsoever to having an honours degree, I now have a positive future and a new career ahead of me. The opportunities provided by the Stirling’s Access Programme played a key part in making that happen.'

Background information

Media enquiries to Matt Francis, Public Affairs Manager, on 01786 46 7946 or