Oxford students win at Student Social Mobility Awards

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Three Oxford students have been recognised at the inaugural Student Social Mobility Awards. The Awards, hosted by social mobility charity upReach at the House of Lords, showcased the outstanding achievements of students from less-advantaged backgrounds. 22 undergraduates were presented with awards, including Renée Kapuku (Keble College), former president of Oxford University African and Carribean Society, who won the upReach Ten Award given to ten students from low socio-economic backgrounds who have achieved outstanding academic, professional or personal success. Tom Gardiner (Worcester College) and Desmond Asante (St Peter’s College) also won awards for Biggest Champion of Social Mobility.

Gardiner told The Oxford Student, “I’m honoured and humbled to have won this award, especially given the incredible work other nominees have done to promote social mobility. If there’s one thing that drives me more than anything else, it’s the belief that everyone should have the same opportunities in life, regardless of background. This should be true both domestically and internationally. Inequality remains a huge problem in the UK.

“Promoting social mobility and bringing about systemic change will both be essential in creating a genuinely equal society. By working with various charities like the Social Mobility Foundation and IntoUniversity, I’ve done my bit to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue the education they deserve. And my passion for early intervention led me to take on the roles of governor of my local school and trustee of a psychological behaviour charity. Even though I’ll start my job as a doctor next year, I hope to continue championing social mobility whenever I can.”

Asante said, “I am very honoured to be recognised amongst the many championing social mobility. I encourage everyone to help make all environments accessible and welcoming to all. I’ll keep doing my best and hope to move into channels that will open up conversations about social mobility in Oxford, the UK and worldwide.”

upReach is a charitable organisation which supports less-advantaged students to achieve their full career potential. The UK has a lower rate of social mobility than any other developed country, with top professions dominated by those from privileged backgrounds. Research by IFS has shown that graduates from lower income households earn an average 10% less than those from higher income households studying the same course at the same university. upReach works to improve social mobility by creating the conditions for undergraduates from less advantaged backgrounds to access top graduate jobs.

The Student Social Mobility Awards were supported by the Social Mobility Commission. Rachael Millar, Head of the Social Mobility Secretariat, said, “Social mobility means that your background does not determine your future. These awards recognise that some young people have to overcome more barriers than others to succeed, and that this success is all the more impressive.

“The role of mentors and initiatives that support people is crucial – and we hope these expand so that everyone has the chance to realise their potential. We hope these individuals go on to transform the places they work, mentor young people in future, and open up opportunities to others so that everyone has the chance to realise their potential.”

Image Credit: upReach