The Whatuni Student Choice Awards, in their tenth year, are the UK’s biggest student-voted awards. They give institutions the recognition they deserve for exceeding student expectations over the past year, which has been particularly challenging in light of the pandemic.
This year’s live event was held at Canary Wharf's East Wintergarden, hosted by comedian Richard Ayoade.
The Outreach and Widening Participation Award won by MDX is considered to be an especially important accolade as it was created to celebrate how universities are helping prospective students during COVID-19.
"Over the national lockdowns we were concerned about the disproportionate effect lost learning had on disadvantaged children. We wanted to focus our efforts on improving digital literacy and curriculum learning in an innovative way"- Elita Eliades, Head of Education Liaison and Outreach at MDX
A special panel of student judges from universities around the country voted on bold initiatives that provided access and engagement to Widening Participation students across the 2021/22 academic year.
MDX, which has social mobility embedded in its values, beat off competition from nine other universities and was praised for showing awareness of those young people who might be worst affected in the summer break and October half-term during the pandemic.
Judges were impressed that MDX created and offered free online Digital Campus sessions to 80 pupils aged 11 to 14 as part of its extensive widening participation work.
Working closely with local schools and organisations, MDX supported disadvantaged children such as those in care or receiving free school meals, to reach students who would benefit the most.
Knowing that video games capture students’ imaginations, and tying in with its Games Design courses, MDX partnered with Digital Schoolhouse, a not-for-profit computer education organisation, and produced play-based learning-themed sessions based around video games and filmmaking.
This was part of a Widening Participation strategy to remove barriers to student success in both education and employment.
The MDX application said: “We seized an opportunity in the fast-growing gaming industry to produce an inspirational learning programme which clearly resonated with learners. It went above and beyond Key Stage 3 learning outcomes, addressing the skills our future workforce will need.
"Not only did we help students catch up with school learning, we inspired them to be creative, develop new skills, and reflect on their future career aspirations.
“Importantly, the Digital Camps had equality, inclusion and accessibility at their heart and successfully met our objectives around engaging students from under-represented backgrounds including those in care or receiving free school meals.”
In addition to the Gold WUSCA trophy, MDX will also receive £10,000 in student bursaries to be awarded to five eligible students (£2,000 each).
Elita Eliades, Head of Education Liaison and Outreach at MDX, said: “At Middlesex University social mobility is a core value, it's in our DNA and I am delighted that the team has won a Whatuni Award in the category of Outreach and Widening Participation.
“Over the national lockdowns we were concerned about the disproportionate effect lost learning had on disadvantaged children. We wanted to focus our efforts on improving digital literacy and curriculum learning in an innovative way and that was how our Digital Camps were born.
“We are delighted to see that the impact of the Digital Camps has been recognised and we look forward to working on more initiatives that help remove barriers and support young people to thrive in the future.”
Picture caption: From right of Richard Ayoade: Paul Woods, Anjali Kataria, Nikki Jell, Sophie Alexis, Artur Krasnovs