Strathclyde helps students who have learning disabilities to break barriers to Higher Education

Students who have a learning disability will have the opportunity to attend one of Scotland’s most prestigious universities following the launch of a new project by the University of Strathclyde, leading charity ENABLE Scotland and national employer ScottishPower.

Eight learners aged 18-24 will have the opportunity to study for a Certificate in Applied Business Skills at Strathclyde Business School (SBS) and gain valuable skills and work experience with ScottishPower.

The programme, called Breaking Barriers, aims to raise aspirations for people who have a learning disability and provide equal opportunities to access university.

The most recent figures available from the Scottish Government show that at the end of the 2015/16 school year, only 4.4% of Scotland’s school leavers (56 out of 1,266 school leavers) who have a learning disability went on to higher education.

Data shows that for the same period, 40% of all school leavers went on to higher education in Scotland.
Alongside support from ENABLE Scotland, the Breaking Barriers students will have a ‘buddy’ to help them make the most of their time at the University, providing friendship and assisting with studies. They will have access to the library, sports centre and Student Union.

The learners will attend lectures and tutorials over a period of eight weeks during which they will learn about digital and social media marketing, people management and customer service. Following this time on campus, their learning will be put into practice through an eight week work placement with ScottishPower.

Upon graduation alongside other students from SBS at a ceremony in November, each learner will receive 20 credit points at SCQF level 4 and a Certificate in Applied Business Skills.

Professor Sir Jim McDonald, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Strathclyde, said: “As a ‘place of useful learning’, Strathclyde is committed to being inclusive and opening Higher Education to all so we are delighted to be pioneering the Breaking Barriers initiative.

“This is the first University-led programme for people with learning disabilities and will help to build the skills and enhance the job opportunities of the participating students.”

Hamish Watson, HR Director of ScottishPower said: “At ScottishPower, we’re committed to creating a diverse and inclusive environment where differences are valued. We’re proud to be a part of such an exciting new programme and to provide real corporate work experience for these young people.”

Theresa Shearer, Chief Executive of ENABLE Scotland, commented: “We know that people who have a learning disability are less likely to go on to Higher Education, which can have a huge impact on their career and life ambitions.

“Following the success of our award-winning #IncludED in the Main?! campaign to improve the school experience for pupils who have learning disabilities, we are delighted to launch Breaking Barriers and extend the opportunities for young people who have a learning disability to realise their ambitions and full potential through Higher Education.

“Each of our inspirational learners is truly breaking barriers, and I hope many more students will follow in their footsteps as we work towards an equal society for every person who has a learning disability.”

The Breaking Barriers programme was launched at an event at the University of Strathclyde on Wednesday 7 February.

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