ARU wins University of the Year title at SOMOs

Published: 13 October 2023 at 14:49

SOMO 2023 trophy awarding ARU University of the Year

UK Social Mobility Awards recognise the local impact of ARU Peterborough

Discover more about ARU Peterborough

ARU was awarded the University of the Year title at last night’s prestigious UK Social Mobility Awards, in recognition of the role ARU Peterborough is playing in advancing social mobility across the city and the wider region.

The UK Social Mobility Awards, known as the SOMOs, are organised by the charity Making the Leap, and were created to raise awareness of and celebrate organisations that are committed to bringing about change and advancing the cause of social mobility in this country.

The judges selected ARU as the winner of the University of the Year title from a shortlist that also included the University of Exeter, the University of Warwick, Lancaster University, the University of the West of England (UWE), and the University of Southampton.

Created in partnership with Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA) and Peterborough City Council (PCC), ARU Peterborough is specifically designed to meet the needs of a city which has been a long-term Higher Education ‘cold spot’, where only 32% of the population have degree level qualifications, compared to a national average of 43%.

ARU Peterborough is already attracting a diverse student population from non-traditional backgrounds to Higher Education, helping to redress the balance between Peterborough and the rest of the region. The first September 2022 entry to ARU Peterborough saw 47% of all applications come from people living in local, PE postcodes.

In addition to its growing student population, in its first year more than 1,600 local school children visited ARU Peterborough, helping to inspire future generations about the opportunities available at university.

More than 30 community groups and events have been welcomed on campus, and the Peterborough IntoUniversity Centre has also been launched, providing long-term educational support to young people who are typically underrepresented in Higher Education.

Professor Roderick Watkins, Vice Chancellor of ARU, said:

“This award is fantastic national recognition of the hard work carried out by colleagues across ARU, and shows that we are on track to meet the aims we set out when establishing ARU Peterborough.

“Across ARU as a whole, some 87% of our students belong to one or more groups that are under-represented in Higher Education. We are hugely proud of our students’ diversity, ambition and hard work, and we never forget that a significant number of them have had to overcome barriers, whether social, physical or economic, to study with us.”

Professor Ross Renton, Principal of ARU Peterborough, said:

“The university is already having a transformative and lasting positive impact on the lives of people within the city and wider region. Having a high-quality new university at the heart of our community, offering an innovative employment-focused curriculum that includes on-campus education, distance learning, in-work training and apprenticeships, makes university more affordable and accessible to local residents.

“We are proud of what has already been achieved, however we are only at the beginning of our long-term mission to increase higher skills, create knowledge and promote inward investment.

“This accolade would not have been possible without ARU’s ability to take ambitious and courageous strategic decisions, and the vision, hard work and determination of all our colleagues and our partners.”

Councillor Lucy Nethsingha, Chair of the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority Skills Committee, said:

"This is a great achievement and recognition of one of the key reasons why the Combined Authority invested in a new university for Peterborough – to tackle a real cold spot for Higher Education which was holding back opportunity for local people. It is worth noting that around a half of applications have come from those with PE postcodes and the surrounding region, which shows ARU Peterborough's potential to support social mobility.

“We want ARU Peterborough to be transformative for the city and its region, and that mission is already being recognised, including through this fantastic success. I want to congratulate everyone at the Combined Authority, at ARU, and the City Council who continue to work hard to deliver a university which is already bringing many benefits to learners, the community and for the local economy."

Councillor Lynne Ayres, Peterborough City Council’s Cabinet Member for Skills, Further and Higher Education including the University, said:

“I am delighted for everyone involved at ARU Peterborough for winning this prestigious award and I'd like to pass on my congratulations to them.

“This award is testament to the dedicated work of their staff and shows that the university is on track to meet its original ambitions. ARU Peterborough has only been open for just over a year but is already creating a facility which welcomes students from all backgrounds, giving them invaluable opportunities to learn, develop and start their careers.

“I am looking forward to seeing ARU Peterborough continue to develop over the next few years, further enhancing our city and region.”

ARU Peterborough has already won a host of awards in its first year, with the UK Social Mobility Awards victory following success at the University Alliance (UK) Awards 2023 and the Association of University Directors of Estates (AUDE) awards.

Thanks to ARU Peterborough, ARU is shortlisted for the Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community award in the forthcoming Times Higher Education Awards 2023 – widely known as the Oscars of the UK university sector – and ARU Peterborough has also played a key role in ARU being shortlisted in the overall University of the Year category.

University House, the main building at ARU Peterborough, is shortlisted for the forthcoming Higher Education Project of the Year in the AJ Architecture Awards 2023, run by the Architects’ Journal. The third phase of ARU Peterborough, which includes new teaching spaces and a Living Lab science facility, is due to be completed next year.