The Guardian University Guide 2024 has placed the University of Bolton in the top 30 universities in Britain, raising the question of whether those in a higher socioeconomic bracket are pivotal to the success of universities.
With national policy heavily geared towards levelling up, social inclusivity promises to be a major factor in creating a more equitable society.
Increasingly public debate is centred on how many private school students are taking up sought-after places at some of the top British institutions.
A recent report from The Tab showed that 15 universities are made up of 20% or more students from fee-paying schools – a divide that The University of Bolton is attempting to flip the script on.
As one of the most socially inclusive universities in Britain — in 2021, successful admissions were 95% from non-selective state schools and 60% first-in-family higher education students — the aim is to level up from the grassroots.
The university says more than 20% of its students come from some of the country’s most deprived areas, despite lacking a massive endowment fund enjoyed by elite universities.
Bolton’s vice-chancellor, professor George Holmes, said: “Britain is a fantastic example of the successes a diverse nation can achieve when a wide range of different voices are given a full seat at the table.
“At the University of Bolton, the student body and academic staff possess a natural diversity that represents the best of global Britain. The power of bringing people from all walks of life into our university is not lost on us, and we believe our continued work to bolster diversity and emphasise social inclusivity are a big part of our success to date”.
As well as being ranked a top 30 university by The Guardian, Bolton is rising in The Sunday Times Good University Guide, 2024 with an 18-place improvement on last year.
In specific categories, the Sunday Times put Bolton at 12th in the UK for teaching quality, 15th for student experience and 10th for social inclusion — all higher than any other university in North-West England.
Students such as odds-defying Codie Farrell, a young mother with two children and an extensive history of debilitating medical issues, have found a home at Bolton University.
Codie said: “Bolton has been fantastic for me and is enabling me to pursue a career as a clinical scientist in haematology, which is a field I am fiercely passionate about.”
Other success stories include asylum seeker Yolande Amana-Ghola who left The Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2002 and came to the UK alone. Now she’s a part-time councillor for Salford City Council, having obtained first-class honours in her BSc.
Yolande said: “I was denied education as a destitute asylum seeker. This is clearly a gap which many people fall into, and I consider myself lucky to have been such a voracious reader and passionate lifelong learner. Otherwise, I would not have the tools to pursue further education, let alone the English skills to undertake a degree.”
PhD student Boluwatife Oyesola was the first member of her family to arrive in Bolton from Nigeria nearly a decade ago. She is an ambassador for international students. Now her daughters Toluwani and Abimbola also study there.
She said: “Bolton University is entirely student focused with such a warm and hospitable environment for people to grow in and improve their knowledge of the world. For us it’s become more than a place to study. This is home.”