Breaking Barriers wins national award

An ENABLE Scotland-led programme, aimed at broadening higher education opportunities for people with learning disabilities, has won another Scotland-wide award.

The Breaking Barriers initiative, which helps young people with a learning disability gain university qualifications and work experience for the first time in the UK, was named winner in the Spotlight category of the 2020 Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards.

The programme is currently in its third year, with eight students in its first cohort, 15 in its second and 16 registered for this year’s. It is run by ENABLE Scotland in partnership with Strathclyde Business School, ScottishPower and Marriott Hotels.

The awards are presented by Interface, which matches businesses with academics to develop and research new products, services and processes. The winners were announced at a ceremony in Edinburgh on Thursday 27th February 2020.

Lianne Williams, Head of Performance with ENABLE Works, ENABLE Scotland’s successful employability division said:

We are delighted that the Breaking Barriers programme has received yet more recognition, and pay tribute to our incredible partners who continue to work with us on such an innovative project.

In an economy where less than 7% of people who have a learning disability are in paid employment, Breaking Barriers makes a difference in the lives of young adults with learning disabilities, supporting them to undertake a university experience and gain real work experience with two of Scotland’s largest employers.

They also graduate at a fully inclusive ceremony at Strathclyde’s Barony Hall – the same as everyone else does.   This is a programme that truly does break barriers.


The Spotlight Award celebrates a partnership between a business sector and an academic discipline to provide an innovative solution to a challenge.

Dr Siobhán Jordan, Director of Interface, said:

I always really enjoy the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards which are now in their fifth year. Not only do we celebrate the achievements of the businesses we’ve helped match with academic expertise, this unique ceremony showcases the immense talent and expertise in colleges and universities working with industry, which enable sustainable and inclusive economic growth and job creation.

The pioneering individuals and R&D partnerships recognised at the Awards have brought huge benefits and impacts which ripple locally, regionally and globally to truly drive industry-led innovation.


Ivan McKee MSP, Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation, presented the awards. He said:

I’d like to congratulate all the nominees and winners who have been recognised for their outstanding work at the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards.

Not only do these awards celebrate activities and projects happening all over Scotland, they bring people together and create new collaborations and partnerships. Their innovation plays a crucial role in boosting productivity and creating sustainable economic growth for the country.


The Knowledge Exchange Awards win for Breaking Barriers follows its success at the 2019 Times Higher Education Awards, in which it was named Widening Participation or Outreach Initiative of the Year.

Find out more about the Breaking Barriers programme here.

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