New campaign highlights the success stories of local students who were the first in their family to attend university

The extraordinary success of students from The University of Manchester who were the first in their families to attend university is being highlighted in a new national campaign, led by Universities UK.

Charlotte Mellor who is a Cancer Research UK PhD candidate and Candy Kong who studied Criminology at The University of Manchester were the first in their family to attend university and are now featured as part of the Universities UK 100 Faces campaign.

Charlotte Mellor said: " Without University, I wouldn’t be working in the field I’m in. It’s opened the door to working in a field I didn’t even know existed before, as it’s so far removed from school classes. It’s allowed me to get involved in things at a really high level and have a go at different things that I’ve been interested in.

"My brother has since applied and been to university, which was easier for him than me as it wasn’t new anymore. I’d already been through it and opened the door. My immediate family is really proud of the fact I was the first to go to university and I’ve earned the opportunity to go and do something that I want to do, which I wouldn’t have had without university."

Candy Kong said: "I value my time at university immensely, from studying a challenging degree, meeting new people and taking on exciting opportunities."

UUK’s ’100 Faces campaign’ aims to champion and celebrate the positive impact of ’first-in-the-family’ (FitF) graduates on the UK - including England footballer Beth Mead, Lord David Blunkett, Nobel Prize winner Sir Chris Pissarides and actor Amit Shah - in order to highlight the need for access to support , and ensure the next generation can reach their graduate potential.

As part of the campaign, new r esearch reveals the transformative impact of going to university on ambition ( 74% ), with almost three quarters ( 73% ) of FitF students agreeing their degree gave them the confidence to apply for jobs without feeling like an imposter

The research also highlights FiF students’ reliance on depreciating financial support - without financial support, over 4 in 10 F itF graduates couldn’t have afforded to go to university at all. This is equivalent to around 1.1 million 24-40-year-olds in England and Wales.

With financial provisions dwindling and the cost of living rising, is calling for government to reinstate maintenance grants and increase support for future students

There are those who say that too many people go to university. I disagree. These stories tell you why. In this country you are still twice as likely to go to university if you are from the wealthiest background, compared to the least wealthy. That’s not right.


These findings come from extensive new research, commissioned by Universities UK, into the experiences of 6,004 UK graduates and 4,006 non-graduates, aged 24-40, from across the UK.

The success of students like Charlotte and Candy is testament to the extraordinary role university can play - particularly for those students who are the first in their family to attend and face significant barriers before they even set foot on campus. Despite this inequality, FiF students flourish at university - with three quarters of FiF respondents saying that their experiences at university made them more confident and ambitious, gave them broader life experiences and crucial life skills which continue to be impactful long after graduation.

However, the research also pointed to the need for uplifted financial support to ensure that FiF students are able to progress. Over 4 in 10 (41%) FitF students believe that without financial assistance they wouldn’t have been able to afford to go to university, and when non-graduates from across the UK were asked what might have persuaded them to attend university, almost half ( 48% ) responded more financial support.

Many graduates responding to this survey were eligible for non-repayable maintenance grants as students, which were replaced by repayable loans, in England in 2016, although maintenance grants continue to operate in Wales, Scotland and for some healthcare courses in England.

In light of this, UUK is campaigning to highlight the achievements of the extraordinary first in family graduates in every community, and to ensure that future generations don’t miss out on the transformative impact of a university education.

Vivienne Stern MBE, Chief Executive of Universities UK, commented: "There are those who say that too many people go to university. I disagree. These stories tell you why. In this country you are still twice as likely to go to university if you are from the wealthiest background, compared to the least wealthy. That’s not right."

"There are those who say that too many people go to university. I disagree. These stories tell you why. In this country you are still twice as likely to go to university if you are from the wealthiest background, compared to the least wealthy. That’s not right.

"The experiences of students who are the first in their families to have been to university tell a powerful story. I am amazed by how many graduates talked about having imposter syndrome - and the way that earning a degree helped to banish that feeling. I believe we have a responsibility to keep working to ensure a wider range of people in this country get access to the potentially transformative experience of going to university. For that to happen, we really do need to see an improvement in maintenance support to support those from the least privileged backgrounds."