Young people with disabilities break barriers to university

November 11, 2019 Press Release

12 young people with autism and learning disabilities have graduated from University of Strathclyde Business School through the Breaking Barriers programme.

Breaking Barriers is a ground-breaking partnership enabling young people who have learning disabilities to attend one of the leading business schools in the UK within a university campus, achieve an accredited qualification, and gain real work experience with some of the largest employers in Scotland.

The first-of-its-kind initiative – delivered by leading Scottish learning disability charity ENABLE Scotland with partners The University of Strathclyde Business School, Scottish Power, and Marriott Hotels – has a joint vision of equality of access to the opportunities that world-class education and organisations can provide;  where people who have learning disabilities are equal members of an inclusive university community, attain an accredited qualification and achieve employment opportunities.

12 students from the Breaking Barriers Class of 2019 graduated alongside their peers at the University of Strathclyde’s Barony Hall on 7 November after completing the course at Strathclyde Business School.

This is the second class of students to graduate from the course, and the partners have confirmed that the programme will run again in 2020.

While around 40% of all school leavers in Scotland go on to higher education, only 4% of school leavers who have a learning disability secure places at university.

Breaking Barriers seeks to give young people who have a learning disability the support they need to enjoy equal access to the opportunities – both academic and social – that university offers.

One of this year’s graduates, Joe Kingdom, said:

I got involved with Breaking Barriers through ENABLE Works. I’d had some negative experiences with Higher Education in the past and had decided that it just wasn’t for me. Breaking Barriers changed all of that, and through it, I’ve achieved things that I didn’t think were possible.

Getting an accredited qualification and work experience has done so much for my self-esteem. It’s been amazing. It just goes to show that with small differences being made, every experience can be made inclusive for everyone.


During his work placement at Scottish Power, Joe worked in several different departments and got to discover his passion for Renewables. The enthusiasm shown by Joe while completing his work placement was recognised by Scottish Power, who offered him a long-term position with them as an admin assistant.

ENABLE Scotland’s Group CEO Theresa Shearer said:

Breaking Barriers is more than an education and employment programme. Breaking Barriers enables young people who have learning disabilities to access the formative life-shaping experience of university that is a rite of passage for so many of us, yet is currently available to so few young people who have learning disabilities.

Last year’s group of graduates have gone on to achieve amazing things, from Modern apprentices, full-time employment and furthering their education. I’m so proud of all the young people who have completed this programme, and can’t wait to see what the Breaking Barriers Class of 2019 go on to achieve.  We are determined to support even more young people to Break Barriers in 2020.


Professor Sir Jim McDonald, Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of Strathclyde said:

As the ‘place of useful learning’, Strathclyde is committed to being socially progressive.  This also means being inclusive and opening Higher Education to all, so we are delighted to be pioneering the Breaking Barriers initiative.


Keith Anderson, CEO of Scottish Power said:

A brilliant programme run by brilliant people at ENABLE Scotland, with a brilliant partner in the University of Strathclyde Business School – but most of all, truly incredible, brilliant students opening our eyes to what people can do.  A pleasure for Scottish Power to work with all of you.


Find out more about Breaking Barriers.

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