The 20th anniversary of any charity is no doubt a significant milestone, but the nature of the work we do at IntoUniversity, makes this particular moment in time especially poignant. Tackling inequalities in education is by its nature a long-term endeavour, and its success therefore needs to be viewed through a long-term lens.
20 years represents a generation. Dreams that were first imagined 20 years ago are now becoming a reality. Potential that was then untapped is now being realised. The first seven year olds we worked with are now in their mid-twenties. The communities we are part of have evolved. Societal attitudes, technology, and the political and economic landscape have all shifted.
At IntoUniversity, we’ve transformed in ways we could never have imagined when we first decided to provide support for the young people in our local community back in the early 2000s. Two decades on and we’re now a national charity with over 35 centres, serving communities up and down England and Scotland, and working with tens of thousands of young people.
“20 years represents a generation. Dreams that were first imagined 20 years ago are now becoming a reality. Potential that was then untapped is now being realised.”
Over the years there have been numerous achievements we’re proud to celebrate and we’ve seen countless young people go on to do amazing things after working with us. We’re particularly pleased to have been recognised as the Charity Times Charity of the Year 2022, an accolade we’ve been honoured to receive three times now in our 20-year history.
But the real value of our work needs to be judged over decades, rather than years. Our 20th anniversary represents, therefore, the perfect opportunity to both reflect on the journey so far, and consider where it might lead us next.
Our approach at IntoUniversity has been to try and replicate the type of holistic support a young person from an advantaged background might receive from their family network within our centres, helping them to discover their focus and build the capabilities they will need to reach their full potential, whether that be through a route into higher education or work.
Crucial to this is understanding the multifaceted and ongoing nature of the support required. We try to replicate these advantages to create a more equitable situation for young people from less advantaged backgrounds, recognising that we cannot simply rely on quick fixes or one-dimensional approaches.
Of course, that’s not to say that efforts to address educational inequality can be tossed into the long grass – far from it. But a wide range of support and skills are needed to ensure young people have the right environment, academic support, resources and opportunities to navigate the system and reach their full potential. It’s also imperative that we truly understand the communities we work in and become attuned to the range of local issues that they contend with. This is something which is very difficult to do without being physically embedded within the neighbourhoods in which we work, and committing to working with them over a substantial period of time. This way, we can evolve with communities and adapt to changes in the local landscape and wider society.
As we embark on the next 20 years at IntoUniversity, this approach will remain central to everything we do.
Finally, we must take this opportunity to thank every single person who has enabled us to reach this milestone: our funders, our trustees, colleagues and staff, community leaders, schools, and of course, the amazing young people and their families.