Impact 2019

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Insights from an expert mentor

WHAT IT TAKES Honest advice from alumnus Alex Potter

The 125 Fund Amanda Jesenska’s budding community project





ear friends of Westminster, welcome to the latest issue of Impact – our annual publication to celebrate the tremendous ways in which the generosity of our alumni and supporters is transforming the lives of our students. We are incredibly proud of our entire University community and delighted you have chosen to support our students to reach their full potential. This is an incredibly important element of the Westminster ethos. We have always opened our doors to provide educational opportunities to people regardless of their background and supported them on their journey to develop their skills, knowledge and expertise. This passion and commitment to widening access and opportunity is something we are proud to have championed from our earliest days as the Royal Polytechnic Institution to today. You, our Westminster community, have given back in so many wonderful and creative ways that reflecting on them is incredibly encouraging for the future of our students and the institution. In this issue, you can read about Amanda Jesenska (one of our Herbal

Medicine students) who is using The 125 Fund award to support the creation and development of her community garden in East London. We also catch up with Colin Matheson, former Director of Scholarships at the University of Westminster, to learn more about his experiences and passion for Westminster, which have led to him leaving a legacy to the institution. This magazine continues to be a great opportunity to share how you, our alumni and supporters, are going above and beyond to create life-changing opportunities for our students, which in turn transforms their local communities as well as our society in general. I hope you find the stories in this issue of Impact exciting, inspiring and illustrative of the changes, great and small, that you are supporting at every level. I would like to thank each and every one of you for your contribution; the impact you’re having is truly appreciated and felt across the entire global Westminster community. Thank you for your ongoing support. Chris Smith Director, External Relations

IMPACT Issue No3 2019 Editor Jenny Stubberfield Contributors Alyssa Martin, Heather Ridal and Julia Ross Development and Alumni Relations University of Westminster, Cavendish House, 101 New Cavendish Street, London W1W 6XH T: +44 (0)20 3506 6245 E:

A charity and a company limited by guarantee Registration number: 977818 Registered office: 309 Regent Street, London W1B 2UW Thank you to all staff, students and supporters who have contributed to this issue. 8760/04.19/CH/GP




A place for progress

How Westminster is championing social mobility through scholarships and support


Cultivating a community

The 125 Fund helps Amanda Jesenska bring happiness and healing to East London




The art of knowing when to quit

Alumnus Alex Potter shares his motivations for taking part in the ‘What It Takes’ event series


A bank of support

Santander is helping the University to enhance our students’ employability and experience




The latest news from our donors and corporate support


Stars and stripes

Westminster Working Cultures heads to Washington, D.C.



Mentoring is a two-way street

Dedicated mentor Danny Gray on the mutual benefits of mentoring


My life and legacy

Former Director of Scholarships Colin Matheson on why he’s leaving a legacy for future Westminster students




A Place for Progress | IMPACT







A place for progress University has long been viewed as the missing link in the battle for greater social equality. If higher education is available to everyone, regardless of who they are or who their parents are, surely that is half the battle towards a society where everyone can reach their true potential?


ou only have to look at Nordic countries like Denmark and Finland, which invest heavily in education, to witness its extraordinary power. Not only are people from poorer backgrounds far more likely to go to university in the first place, but overall social equality in both countries is ranked among the best in the Western world. The not-so glass ceiling In Britain, on the other hand, 44 per cent of wealth is owned by just 10 per cent the population. Nearly one in three children live in poverty and more than a fifth of the population live below the poverty line – despite the fact that most of these households are in work. Against this backdrop, it is clear that people

from poorer backgrounds would benefit considerably from higher education. But they are also the least likely to get it, even as university applications continue to rise. Current rates for tuition fees mean modern graduates face unprecedented debt, and, with no ‘bank of mum and dad’ to fall back on, poorer students face far higher stakes. Long before young people even consider applying to university, our education system is failing many, with standards at schools in deprived areas statistically far below the national average. It is symbolic, perhaps, that the Social Mobility Commission’s 2018 report found just 15 per cent of 18-to 24-year-olds believe their generation has the most opportunity to move up in society. It further reported that 75 per cent of all those surveyed believe

poorer people are less likely to go to top universities, and 64 per cent believe those from a working-class background have less chance of pursuing a professional career. So, what can universities do to ease social inequality? How can they attract students from disadvantaged backgrounds and empower them to see things through? Funding, understandably, is a huge part of the solution; coming in the form of scholarships, fee waivers and bursaries. Outreach programmes are also hugely effective at reaching and motivating those from poorer backgrounds. The University of Westminster has continually shown its commitment to attracting and supporting the most diverse student body possible. A crucial part of this is driven by its social mobility initiatives.


IMPACT | A Place for Progress

The Wates Scholarship Established by James Wates CBE, former University of Westminster Governor and Chairman of leading construction company, Wates Group, Wates Scholarships offer financial assistance to UK home students embarking on full-time undergraduate study within the School of Architecture and Cities, who are the first in their family to go to university. With the ongoing costs of materials, equipment and printing portfolios, architecture is an expensive course at the best of times, and the £2,000 annual scholarship can significantly ease financial pressure, leaving students free to focus on their studies. “I know that I would have struggled a lot,” says Wates scholar, Maryam Islam. “The scholarship also helps mentally – it’s comforting knowing that I have that support financially.” Both Maryam and her sister started university at the same time, limiting the financial support their family can provide to each. In her second year of a BSc Architectural and Environmental Design – the only course of its kind in the UK – Maryam is currently considering a career in environmental consultancy. The degree “means a lot” to her, she explains. “In society nowadays, it’s like you can’t be accepted unless you have a good education,” she says. “And to be able to achieve that… I’m so grateful.” For Ewan Smith, a final year of BA Tourism and Events Management student, the importance of the Wates Scholarship goes beyond the financial backing itself. “It’s been an absolute godsend,” he says. “With all honesty, I don’t know if I would have been able to finish this degree without the help from Wates and the Scholarship. Not just financially, but from the point of view that you know someone believes in you.” During his time at Westminster, Ewan has found the Scholarships Office very

WHEN YOU GO TO THE SCHOLARSHIP EVENTS, IT’S INCREDIBLY DIVERSE – THEN AGAIN, IT’S AN INCREDIBLY DIVERSE UNIVERSITY, WHICH IS BRILLIANT supportive and proactive and says he would feel comfortable turning to them for help on any aspect of his course or university life. “It’s a nice feeling,” he continues. “It’s almost like having central heating, where you know it’s there and it just gives you a little warmth I suppose.” As a mature student, originally from a disadvantaged background, Ewan is acutely aware of the ‘elitist’ reputation of universities and has sometimes felt out of place. In his view, both the University of Westminster and the Wates programme itself do a great deal to challenge this perception. “When you go to the scholarship events, it’s incredibly diverse – then again, it’s an incredibly diverse university, which is brilliant, and actually makes me feel a lot more comfortable being there,” he says, adding: “You can think of every demographic of person and you can find them in that room and I think that’s a testament to Wates, that they understand what the University’s about.” Both Ewan and Maryam say they never expected to be chosen for the Scholarship, and it was a huge confidence boost. “It makes you feel really special to achieve something like that,” Maryam says. Estranged students In 2016, the late Professor Geoffrey Petts, Westminster’s former ViceChancellor, signed a ‘Stand Alone’

pledge to support ‘estranged students’, meaning under-25s, studying without the approval or support of a family network. Many estranged students are victims of physical and emotional abuse, facing issues such as honourbased violence, forced marriage or LBTQI+ rejection. A large proportion of them are not supported by social services and over 30 per cent are, or have been, homeless by the time their course starts. Lacking the financial and emotional support most of their peers would take for granted, these students face far greater challenges when they commence their degrees. On top of this, many feel stigmatised or that people do not understand their situation, and they often report a reluctance to seek out support and resources offered within university. As well as working to raise awareness of the problem, Westminster offers bursaries, all-year-round accommodation at the University’s halls of residence, with a deposit waiver, and accommodation scholarships, in partnership with the Unite Foundation. In 2018, Westminster won a Stand Alone award in the ‘graduation and beyond’ section for initiatives such as extended summer employment contracts for final year students. Working with support from the Sir John Cass’s Foundation and the Hollick Family Charitable Trust, Westminster has also secured external funding for graduation and transition from university for estranged students.

A Place for Progress | IMPACT

Care leavers Care leavers are really a category all of their own, facing a unique set of financial and emotional challenges when they start university. Westminster’s wide-reaching available help includes support from University tutors, bursaries, scholarships and tailored financial advice. Westminster also offers completion bursaries through Sir John Cass’s Foundation, and support with accommodation costs through Unite.

In 2016, to celebrate the University’s 125th anniversary, the University of Westminster established The 125 Fund. In conjunction with QHT, the Fund invites University alumni to donate money, which is matched pound for pound, to make awards to enhance the courses and career aspirations of individual students. Past grants have included paying for one student’s animation equipment and funding a PhD student’s participation in an international conference.

Quintin Hogg Trust Set up in memory of the University’s founder, the Quintin Hogg Trust (QHT) funds two separate undergraduate scholarships. In Session offers one-off awards to financially qualifying students, who have been involved in the Student Ambassador Scheme or the Students’ Union or have undertaken volunteer work either at university or before. The English as additional language (EAL) scholarships are awarded to financially qualifying students whose second language is English.

The perks of diversity The benefits of social mobility go far beyond simple fairness, or even the personal empowerment of individuals. Studies show diversity in the workplace has a hugely positive impact on both productivity and innovation. A team encompassing a broad range of backgrounds and demographics can bring fresh and varied perspectives to a project, and companies embracing diversity statistically outperform non-diverse workplaces. Britain needs a skilled workforce more than ever before, creating a


further incentive to empower people from all backgrounds to gain further education. The findings of the Office for Students’ (OfS) consultation on improving access to higher education (published in December) has placed a firm onus on universities to facilitate greater equality in every way they can. While there is a limit to what any institution can do in isolation, social mobility initiatives have never been more important. The University of Westminster has already helped thousands of students from disadvantaged backgrounds achieve academic and professional goals and it remains deeply committed to finding new and innovative ways to improve on its efforts. Thank you to all our generous donors. To find out more about supporting scholarship funding, please email


IMPACT | Cultivating a community







Cultivating a community It’s been over a year since Herbal Medicine mature student Amanda Jesenska heard that she would be receiving funding to pursue her dream project of creating an apothecary garden for her local community. A few seasons later, we went to visit Amanda and see for ourselves how the support from The 125 Fund has transformed this small plot of land and enriched the community around it.


idden down an alleyway in suburban East London is not where you expect to discover an organic vegetable plot and herbal healing garden; but for the residents of Chingford who stumble upon Haseya Apothecary Garden, this is exactly what they will be fortunate enough to find. “I used to be the Council Allotment Officer,” explains Amanda, as we sit on a wooden picnic bench encircled by raised beds of mint, lavender and fennel, “and so I started off just loving plants. My interest grew naturally, or ‘organically’ I should say, to progress to herbal medicine.

“I’m quite lucky that I’ve always been around plants and had access to organic vegetables because my mum gardens and we had a vegetable garden when I was growing up, so I learnt about the importance of food and knowing where your food comes from.” It wasn’t until Amanda began working with residents in more urban areas that she realised organic growing was such a privilege. “As the Council Allotment Officer, I set up projects where families could start growing their own produce and they came back at me with questions like, ‘How can we even consider growing vegetables when we’re on benefits?’ These projects

weren’t free and they pointed out, when you have to struggle with paying for gas and electric, you wouldn’t buy seeds to grow your own vegetables.” Believing that everyone should have access to nature and to organic food, Amanda knew what she had to do. “So I got this space. It was overgrown; six-foot-high with brambles and nobody wanted it, so I rented it. I thought ‘food for free’. Whoever gardens here can get organic produce here and they don’t have to think about where they can buy their organic vegetables.” All Amanda needed to bring the community garden to life was some funding, which is where The 125 Fund came in. The 125 Fund is a matched


IMPACT | Cultivating a community

funding opportunity which gives Westminster students the opportunity to carry out projects or activities alongside their studies to enhance their professional development. Since its inception in 2016, the Fund has been matched pound for pound by the Quintin Hogg Trust, and in 2018, Amanda was one of 166 students to receive a share of the £140,017 raised by generous donations to the Fund. “Absolutely everything you see here was from Westminster. Where we’re standing didn’t exist – it was all brambles before. We purchased all the beds, all the plants, this shed, the greenhouse, tools, seeds, pots – everything. We couldn’t have done it without the funding.” The effect Haseya has had on the surrounding community is evident in the garden, from the children’s colourfully decorated plant pots, to the burgeoning plans to build a pond and ‘edible forest’, and the number of dedicated volunteers who have helped bring the garden to life. “It’s been loved by everybody who’s been here. They’re just overwhelmed,” Amanda explains. “Our most popular event was a ‘grow your own herb garden’ event with children and their families. They plant three or four herbs in the pots, we talk about each plant and they get to learn what they can do with them culinarily and medicinally – like rosemary is a medicinal plant as well as a herb. We’ve done a herbal-tea-making day too. We had little tea bags and the kids mixed together the herbs that we grew here, and they made their own tea. “It has had such a big impact on the community. When the new Council Allotment Officer came, she told us that other allotment sites were given £6,000 when they were moved for the Olympic Park, and it’s hard to see where all the money has been spent. You come here and you can see how well we’ve spent the money. She’s had so much feedback

Cultivating a community | IMPACT


ONES TO WATCH Thanks to your generosity, another 122 student projects are now in development. Here are just a few of the students whose dreams you have helped make reality: about us that they’ve actually put our names on the website!” But for Amanda, this is just the beginning. “There’s a lot of crime in the area at the moment, so I’m trying to pull the children’s and young people’s interest into it, and so far it’s worked really well and the numbers are rising. But there’s still more work to do.” The 125 Fund allows students to apply for further funding in subsequent years, and owing to Amanda’s remarkable accomplishment with Haseya, she has been awarded additional funding this year to develop her project even further.

events. This area isn’t as diverse and it’s been nice to see people interact and build a community of trust – and with all the things going on – it removes all of that. In the garden, we’re just one.” So, what can we expect to see in the garden this year? “More flowers in addition to the herbs, so it looks more of a garden. I’m obsessed with anything purple and in a ball! So echinacea, alliums and lots of chives as well. “But long term, our vision is to hopefully have a few acres just on the outskirts of London, somewhere in Epping or Hertfordshire, which we

IT’S BEEN NICE TO SEE PEOPLE INTERACT AND BUILD A COMMUNITY OF TRUST – AND WITH ALL THE THINGS GOING ON – IT REMOVES ALL OF THAT. IN THE GARDEN, WE’RE JUST ONE “Haseya is an apothecary garden for everybody, but the new funding I put forward for was for ‘The Seeds of Haseya’. I want to develop the children’s element of it and teach children about botany, plants and herbal medicine – so the new money is going towards equipment and using the community hall. I’ve got the microscopes already!” The fruits of Amanda’s apothecary garden are not limited to just her local community. Despite being only a small patch of land in Chingford, the eminence of Haseya has encouraged people from all over London to get involved with the garden. “We’ve had quite a diverse uptake, including lots of people from the Muslim community in Newham, who have heard about us and travelled here to our

could set up as a retreat for people who are suffering from exhaustion and fatigue. They could just come and relax, and we’ll hopefully have some animals as well as plants. It will be a retreat for people to be near nature and heal. There will be herbal medicines, but you don’t have to use them to get healing from plants. You only have to be near plants to be healed by them.” Thank you to all our generous alumni and donors who continue to support The 125 Fund. To find out more about the projects and how you can support them, please visit


Law LLB, 2022 “The 125 Fund has allowed me to establish an online platform for my business, creating handmade custom trainers. I’ve already got 15 pre-orders. So it’s looking very positive for me – business is growing!”


Project Management MSc, 2020 “I would like to thank The 125 Fund for supporting me to set up a food stall at Borough Market to sell my spice rubs and relishes and eventually take my product, Noma Creates, to mainstream markets.”


Sociology BA, 2021 and XAVIER WHITE Music Business Management MA, 2016 “We are writing and illustrating an LGBTQ-themed children’s book, which The 125 Fund will enable us to publish. We didn’t have LGBTQ representation in books growing up and we would like to help future generations to benefit from it.”


International Business BA, 2019 “I have strategically followed different modules and undertaken online courses to gain knowledge in distinctive fields. However, this is still not enough to strengthen my practical skills. The 125 Fund, which I’ve had the great privilege to obtain, will therefore be invested in two additional training courses to further my development.”


IMPACT | The Art of Knowing when to quit







THE ART OF KNOWING WHEN TO QUIT Our CASE award-winning ‘What It Takes’ series has concluded a second year of successful and inspirational talks. Thanks to our dedicated pool of worldly alumni, these events are an opportunity for students and recent graduates to learn life skills and gain invaluable insights into the professional world, improving their confidence and enhancing their employability. We met up with Alex Potter to find out about his experience of contributing to the series.


tart-ups have never been sexier, and Alex would know. As, after completing his Cognitive Science BSc in 2010, his career has spanned mentoring, consultancy, investment and entrepreneurship. Now Programme Director at Allia, a not-for-profit business accelerator, he is an expert in innovation and returned to Westminster to share his experience and advice on ‘What It Takes to be an entrepreneur’. “People want to play at being an entrepreneur,” he explains, “and start-ups are often brainwashed into never giving up.” For Alex, having witnessed many start-ups (including his own) fail to take off, the most important lesson he wanted to communicate to students was understanding the realities and difficulties of growing small businesses. “There’s this narrative in the start-up ecosystem, things like: ‘As long as you believe in yourself and have heart, things will go well.’ This can have a detrimental effect. Knowing when things are broken, when to give up, to step away or use learnings and adapt, this is far more important. I’ve seen more start-ups die because people ruthlessly pursue a vision; they refuse to give up, then, ultimately, customers

don’t care about it or the world wasn’t ready for their product. This is what happened with my first start-up. I want to help people avoid making the same mistakes. It’s better to give up earlier and to know when to quit. This is not always the most popular advice, but it’s the truth.” With a keen interest in science fiction, Alex finished his studies hoping for a career in applied AI, but found there was little on offer. While working at a business centre he got involved with angel investments and fundraising,

they will end up in ‘x’ number of years; they want positive affirmations. “I would rather hear less from successful people who say, ‘Be brave and have the courage of your convictions.’ Lots of these types of speakers can be inscrutable. For example, you see Richard Branson saying he ‘hustled’, which only makes the chasm wider between where they are and where you are. “I would prefer to hear from someone who says, ‘If you want to be a lawyer don’t just jump into law, do something

I’VE SEEN MORE START-UPS DIE BECAUSE PEOPLE RUTHLESSLY PURSUE A VISION; THEY REFUSE TO GIVE UP and years later, a typical day sees him working with AI start-ups, helping them to raise finances and become successful businesses. This unconventional path into his desired career was something else Alex felt incredibly valuable to share with the students. “I’ve got this big thing that I call the ‘route to attainment’,” he explains. “A lot of people want to know where

else.’ Someone who studied something alternative and got on with accelerators. This is more relatable. I wish I had it when I was studying – to see other people’s routes to attainment.” But according to Alex, volunteering isn’t only about what you can offer other people. He believes the experience can be mutually beneficial as a means of ‘manufacturing serendipity’.

The Art of Knowing when to quit | IMPACT

“It’s a phrase I use a lot in the accelerator at Allia. You never know what’s going to emerge from being on a panel and sharing thoughts, but there will be something. Someone in the audience will connect you with someone else or have an incredible start-up, and I wouldn’t have engaged with them otherwise and couldn’t possibly have predicted this.” “If you have more of a cynical mind and are only after getting paid to speak at events, you’re not allowing yourself the chance for some kind of serendipity. If you give first, it will come back around.” Alex’s dedication to the students doesn’t stop there. Since taking part in

the What It Takes series, he has been in discussion about hosting Westminster students at his workplace and integrating them with start-ups. “I was very impressed with the students. I do a fair number of events and panels, and frequently get too many inbound requests for advice, fundraising questions and often a whacky idea that will not take off. But Westminster students are already testing out their ideas and this got me thinking… this is one of the reasons I wanted to offer further engagement with Allia. “Coming to the event made this happen. Some start-ups will get engaged with fantastic, talented Westminster students; it’s a win-win.”


Thank you to all of our alumni who have volunteered their time to the What It Takes event series. If you would like to get involved with What It Takes in the future, please email


IMPACT | A Bank of Support







A BANK OF SUPPORT Santander Universities UK has a long-standing partnership with the University of Westminster, in line with its mission to support higher education, innovation and entrepreneurship within the communities where it works. The alliance was sustained this academic year with a further generous pledge of £40,000 to help fund student innovation and development, including the launch of our new University-wide entrepreneurial competition. What’s The Big Idea? Dedicated to promoting a culture of enterprise, as part of this year’s support, Santander donated £10,000 in sponsorship for piloting a new annual business competition which aims to showcase and celebrate students’ entrepreneurial ideas and potential. Organised by the Creative Enterprise Centre (CEC) and in partnership with the National Association of College & University Entrepreneurs (NACUE), The Big Idea Competition encourages students to explore unique and disruptive ideas. The premise of the contest is not to find the most developed business concept, but rather, to commend ideas which resolve real problems, needs and trends in modern-day society. When applications opened in December, students were required to submit a 60-second video pitch describing how their idea was unique, addressed a problem or opportunity and made an impact across four entry categories: Digital/Tech, Maker/ Inventor, Freelance and Impact. To maximise student engagement, the 39 contestants had to promote their

submissions across their own digital networks and encourage other students to vote for their idea. The 16 most successful of these entries were then provided with support through a series of promotional events, workshops and masterclasses with the CEC to develop their ideas into viable businesses in the run-up to the final. The final took place at the end of March, with the winners of each category selected following their three-minute pitch to a panel of judges. An awards ceremony followed that evening, with guest speakers and the announcement of the overall competition winner, Malvin Onu. Malvin’s winning idea, ‘Runtrack’, is an online platform for children, teenagers and young adults to access information about sporting events taking place in their local area. He argues that youth having access to more sports facilities, clubs and events, will lead to lower crime rates and reduced childhood obesity. Speaking of his success, Malvin explains, “My main intentions were to gain inspiration from being around other creative and like-minded

entrepreneurs and to gain support for my idea. However, I never truly thought I could actually win, but on the day of the final, I was prepared, focused and came out victorious. “As young people, we need to realise our hearts are strong, our minds are unstoppable and our will is an undeniable force. Understanding that will help us achieve wonders.” With a prize fund of £2,500 for the overall competition winner and subsequent prizes for the category winners and runners up, Santander has provided 16 students with the funds to help bring their brilliant ideas to fruition. Kicking off at the Camp Nou Santander recognises that international experience is a fundamental part of increasing employability for students. Therefore, following the company’s sponsorship of the UEFA Champions League, Santander Universities invited the Vice-Captain of our women’s first football team, Anna Nersveen, to take part in a once-in-a-lifetime ‘Women in Football’ trip to Barcelona. Anna was one of a select group of leading footballers from clubs at UK

A Bank of Support | IMPACT


Thank you to our sponsor: universities to join a programme of events, tours and training. The objective of the trip was to promote women in leadership and help build critical thinking and management skills for female talent. Highlights of the trip included a panel event on women’s leadership, a training session with Chapi Ferrer, professional football coach and ex-player of both FC Barcelona and Chelsea FC, and the opportunity to watch Barcelona v Lyon in the Champions League Round of 16 at the Camp Nou.

we know that those selected for this programme are equally committed to their sport, investing hours into training and are an inspiration to their peers both on and off the pitch.” Insight for all Research shows that participation in extra-curricular activities at university is not only associated with a labour market advantage, but also indicates that those from a lower socio-economic background are less likely to take

AS YOUNG PEOPLE, WE NEED TO REALISE OUR HEARTS ARE STRONG, OUR MINDS ARE UNSTOPPABLE AND OUR WILL IS AN UNDENIABLE FORCE Matt Hutnell, Director of Santander Universities, said “We are thrilled to offer this opportunity to top female football talent from across the UK to help develop their leadership skills, both within and outside a sporting context. We are committed to supporting higher education and

part in such activities, due to lack of finances, time and confidence. To combat this issue, Santander has, for the second year, provided funding for 30 students to take part in Westminster Working Cultures London. The scheme provides students from a widening participation (WP) background

with a ‘taster’ experience of working in some of the leading companies in a range of industries in London. In addition, students are allocated an alumni mentor and are encouraged to take part in guidance appointments with a dedicated careers consultant. Students can explore their career options by attending five exclusive Insight Days at the offices of top London graduate employers including Facebook, Teach First and the Government Digital Service, in addition to on-campus Insight Days with Santander and Goldman Sachs. Following her Insight Day at Teach First, one student commented, “Seeing a woman of colour, in a high position, with hair very similar to my own, was very encouraging and inspiring.” This year, Santander has extended its support even further to fund Westminster Working Cultures Berlin, taking place for the first time in June. With this generous funding, 30 more WP students will be able to take up an international employability opportunity to enhance their vocational prospects.


IMPACT | Developments

DEVELOPMENTS Thanks to the pioneering ways our donors and corporate sponsors contribute to the University, we can continue to offer unique opportunities to many of our students. Here are some of the highlights from 2018/19.



igerspike has generously pledged to support final year female students studying BSc Software Engineering with a £5,000 annual prize fund. The prize, which was launched this January, will be used to incentivise students to aim for a distinction in their final year and

will be split equally between those students who are successful. The support followed the company’s decision to investigate its gender pay gap last year and publish its findings internally. Although it wasn’t a legal requirement for a company of Tigerspike’s size, it was keen to shine a light on the issue and to take a positive step to try to address the gender gap which is so common in the technology sector. By partnering with the University, the company established its support of female students as a way of

acknowledging the lack of women entering the industry, and to encourage more to join and consider a career with Tigerspike. Josh Haagsma, General Manager for Europe, said “Science, Technology, Mathematics and Engineering (STEM) professions have quite a lot of work to do when it comes to closing the gender pay gap. We established the Tigerspike Prize at the University to encourage the best and brightest female Software Engineering students to complete their studies and increase the candidate pool for the benefit of the industry.”

Developments | IMPACT


Thank you to our sponsors:

QUINTIN HOGG TRUST CONTRIBUTES TO FIVE-YEAR ‘SMART LEARNING SPACES’ PROJECT As part of the incredibly generous £4.8m pledge to the University for the 2018/19 academic year, the Quintin Hogg Trust (QHT) has contributed funding to support the development of SMART Learning Spaces across the Harrow, Cavendish, Marylebone and Regent Street campuses. In response to feedback from students and academic staff, the initiative is to refurbish and update a significant number of classrooms, creating spaces which can support a range of teaching approaches and facilitate the integration of new technology. The project, now in its second year, will encourage an increased level of face-to-face interaction between tutors and their students through the use of advanced IT resources and flexible furniture. Initial feedback indicates some significant impact, with over 80 per cent of students agreeing that there is greater student engagement and activity in the new spaces. Academic staff have also acknowledged that the changes to lighting, acoustics and furniture are significant in enhancing how they work. Professor Gunter Saunders, Associate Director of Digital Engagement and Library Services and leader of the SMART Learning Spaces project said: “With Quintin Hogg Trust support over the last two years, the University has been able to develop some fantastic new learning facilities. This has included the recent commissioning of two Active Learning spaces (ALs), specifically designed to support collaborative group work. “The ALs have some great technology within them to support active studentcentred learning. Students can also use the digitally enabled group tables within the ALs for informal learning sessions when classes are not timetabled into the space.”

DANISH INTERIOR COMPANY VOLA EXTENDS ITS SUPPORT TO INTERIOR ARCHITECTURE STUDENTS Over the last eight years, Vola has generously donated a total of £25,000 to support an annual prize fund for students on the BA Interior Architecture course. Four prizes are awarded each year: three to students scoring the highest for their course portfolio in the first, second and final year of the course and one for the best final year architectural model. These are an important way of recognising academic excellence and helping to enhance our students’ CVs in an increasingly competitive graduate market. As part of the company’s ongoing commitment to Interior Architect students, Vola recently extended its support by funding an overnight trip for six students to visit the company’s

headquarters in Denmark this spring. The visit included an exclusive tour of Vola’s factory which provided students with a unique opportunity to learn about different production techniques, followed by an inspiring presentation on product development, lean production and sustainability. Emma Gill, who attended, stated: “I had no idea how much work went into making a tap! It’s all about robot arms and human hands – a tap that used to take 30 days to be made can now be made with one of Vola’s robots in 28 minutes.” UK Manager of Vola, Amaya Eastman, said “I wanted to give the students the experience of being treated like professionals as well as seeing how the industry works.” Outward mobility opportunities like this help to broaden our students’ knowledge of other ways of working and encourage more holistic personal development.


IMPACT | Stars and Stripes







STARS AND STRIPES Last September, our Westminster Working Cultures programme travelled to Washington, D.C. for the first time, giving students the amazing opportunity to enhance their employability and be inspired by Westminster alumni in the US capital. Egle Lusciauskaite (Public Relations and Advertising BA, 2019) and Sam Badcock (Marketing Communications BA, 2021) were among the 15 lucky students to experience politics, culture and a range of professional environments stateside.


ecalling the group’s touchdown in Washington, Egle explains “There were flags everywhere! They were on every single building: the houses, the skyscrapers. It was like another world.” But no wonder, as with the trip taking place in early September and just eight weeks prior to the midterm elections, America’s political hub was buzzing with anticipation. For Sam, this activism was a key motivation for applying to the trip. “I have a strong interest in communications, specifically within the US political arena, so a trip to the nation’s capital was a fantastic opportunity to experience this first-hand, especially on the run-up to the midterms! “There was a willingness to discuss too; in the current political climate there’s a significant amount of tension, so it was refreshing to hear alumni and guests at the events be so open to discussing their views, and when it came to those who disagreed, there was a degree of curiosity that led to genuinely positive and constructive conversations.” The students selected for the trip were chosen from a range of different academic courses, allowing each of them to take something unique away from the experience. As Egle explains: “It was more about cultural things for me; how

people live and how they work in other environments. As a PR student, it’s really important to see the global picture. Once you’re there, you can get an insight and talk to people, and not just rely on what the news and media are telling you.” In addition to its political significance, D.C. is also home to the world’s largest museum and research complex, the Smithsonian Institution. As part of their jam-packed itinerary, the students visited a selection of the museums, including a private tour of the National Museum of African American History and Culture

But the inspirational experiences continued throughout their stay, thanks to the dedication of Westminster alumni. In addition to attending the networking events and presenting inspirational talks, some of our alumni volunteers hosted the students at their workplaces. One such activity was a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the Under Armour headquarters, located in Baltimore. “The trip to Under Armour HQ particularly inspired me,” explains Sam. “As all of the students on the programme were from different courses, we all had

OVERALL, THE TRIP HAD A PROFOUND EFFECT ON MY DEGREE AND MY ASPIRATIONS POST-GRADUATION (NMAAHC) and visits to the National Air and Space Museum and the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. “A highlight for me was our guided tour of the NMAAHC,” explains Egle. “Coming from Eastern Europe, we don’t really learn about that part of history in school. It was an eye-opening experience to see the other side of the story. And that was on the first day of the trip – just the first day!”

specific activities that we were looking forward to. This trip to Baltimore gave us a peek behind the curtain in terms of all the other aspects that play a role in the running of an international clothing brand. Noreen Naroo-Pucci (Westminster Alumna and former Vice President of Under Armour’s Global Design Engine) showed us through her extensive experience in fashion and unique journey to her current position, that there are many ways to get to the career we want.”

Stars and Stripes | IMPACT


“We were all so excited!” agrees Egle. “Actually seeing where everything happens, the new collections and meeting Noreen who has worked for so many amazing brands. It was very inspiring.” Having had such an invaluable impact on our students’ experience, in December, the Westminster Working Cultures programme was nominated for a Student Social Mobility award in the ‘Highest Impact University Initiative’ category, which recognises projects that improve less-advantaged students’ future prospects and employability skills. “Overall, the trip had a profound effect on my degree and my aspirations post-graduation,” Sam summarises. “It also taught me the value of getting an international perspective. It changed the view I had of the industries in which the alumni we visited were working, and definitely opened my eyes to the graduate labour market beyond the UK.” Egle concurs: “This trip was a dream come true and really helped me to come out of my shell. It was definitely the highlight of my University experience”. Thanks to the generous support of the Quintin Hogg Trust, Santander and private donors, the United States is one of six destinations on offer to our students: Berlin, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Shanghai, Washington, D.C. and London. Our plans for 2019/20 are even more ambitious and we will be expanding to offer students the chance to experience Brussels, Dubai and Toronto. Thank you to all of our alumni and donors who are supporting the programme, either financially or through volunteering time to host the students. If you would like to get involved with Westminster Working Cultures, please contact:


IMPACT | Mentoring is a two-way street







Mentoring is a two-way street With more matches than ever before, our award-winning mentoring scheme is improving the employment prospects of hundreds of students and recent graduates every year. Since its launch in 2012, alumnus and Programme Manager, Danny Gray, has supported students through all seven cycles of the mentoring scheme. We met up with Danny, alongside one of his former mentees, Alexis, and current mentee, Reah, to celebrate his commitment and discuss what he’s learnt through his years of dedication to the scheme.


hen asked why he signed up to the mentoring scheme, Danny admits “I’ve always felt that I owed a lot to this University.” After years of trying to break into management, he explains, it was his degree from Westminster which changed his career. “Personally, I wanted to be more involved in the University again – and I had fun here! When the scheme came along, it meant I could reconnect. “Also, professionally, I wanted to become a better listener – because one thing when you get into management – you get to do a lot of telling, and I wanted to be better at listening and understanding.” In order to make the most of the partnership, the mentoring scheme encourages mentors to commit to a minimum of five hour-long meetings with their mentee over the six-month relationship. Having participated in the scheme for several years, Danny’s desire to improve his listening skills through such meetings has certainly been achieved, as his mentees are happy to endorse. “Danny has been very supportive,” says current mentee Reah. “Not just with looking at my applications, but also being someone to talk to about my career in general. I haven’t really had the opportunity to network in the profession, so it’s been really good to speak to someone who is in that field and learn from the steps he’s taken to get there.

“My expectations with the mentoring scheme have been exceeded. Danny has helped to give me direction and guidance, and I think, just through talking with Danny, I’ve been able to establish where I’d like to go career-wise.” Alexis, Danny’s first ever mentee, agrees with Reah. Now four years into her career as a building surveyor, she acknowledges how Danny’s early advice was instrumental in getting her to where she is today. “An important part of working as a surveyor is building relationships. It’s all about people skills, learning about different people and engaging in conversations. Through having a mentor, you learn to come out of your comfort zone. You’re not talking to someone your own age, you’re talking to someone slightly different and who is in the industry. So sometimes, Danny was learning from me and I was learning from him.” This reciprocity of the mentoring relationship is something which Danny is keen to emphasise. “I’ve learnt lots from my mentees in turn,” he explains. “I’ll give you an example: a couple of years ago we ran a graduate scheme at work, and I was able to contribute a great deal because of what my mentees were telling me from their experiences. I felt it was a little unfair, knowing they were going through so many rounds of interviews, and so with my advice, we were able to simplify our recruitment. This was a valuable learning benefit for me from the scheme.”

Mentoring is a two-way street | IMPACT

DANNY’S TOP 3 MENTORING TIPS: COMMIT You’ve got to be committed to the scheme throughout its duration, and to the challenges that come with it. CONSIDER THE REWARDS Mentoring is not a one-way process. Acknowledge what you learn and what you can get out of the scheme as a mentor. I’ve definitely gained a lot through mentoring. KEEP IN TOUCH Even after the scheme ends. If I can stay in contact afterwards with my mentee, I can input more back into the scheme and show that as a mentor, I’m here for the long term.

In addition to what Danny has learnt from his mentees, he has also honed his skills as a mentor, and his approach has developed and evolved over the years. “Initially, Alexis will probably agree, we were really following more of the standard templates in the early days. The innovation would come with the way we would do our mock interviews, prepare for the application form process. But for the following year, I knew what was coming so I could do a lot more in advance. I can look at websites of companies in advance – I know the companies my mentees are applying to now. I know the application period. I know what sort of questions are going to be asked so we can prepare a little bit better. Having the extra experience really does help.” “To be honest,” confesses Danny, “I’m extremely proud to know that I’m influencing my mentees’ futures for the better. It’s fulfilled my reason for joining this mentoring scheme, which is sustained when someone like Alexis stays in contact with me and then I can follow her career, even if we meet only


every six months or so. Reah will be the same afterwards. Ideally, I’d like all seven of my mentees over the years at the same table, so we can compare experiences and talk about how the scheme has evolved.” Having been through the mentoring scheme herself, we were keen to ask Alexis if she would consider one day becoming a mentor herself. “Yes, that’s something that I have thought of. When I first applied, there was nobody who was a building surveyor. I think Danny was the only person in project management, and I was lucky to get him. I would definitely like to give back in future.”

COULD YOU BE A MENTOR? Do you have three or more years of experience in a graduate level role? Can you commit to at least five hours over six months? Then we’d love to hear from you. Contact

My life and legacy | IMPACT



Colin Matheson dedicated over 30 years of loyal service to the University of Westminster. As Director of Scholarships, he was the driving force behind developing the scholarships programme into one of the largest of its kind in the UK and changing the lives of thousands of students. Now retired, we talk to Colin about why he is leaving a legacy in his will.


hen asked what is special about the University of Westminster, Colin doesn’t need much time to think. “There are two things,” he says. “The people. And the ethos of the institution; everyone gets the best quality of education possible. My personal views are very much aligned with the University’s ethos and that made working here easy.” This is the ethos of ‘education for all’, a philosophy that has been at the core of the institution since its earliest days as the Polytechnic, providing education to London’s poor and working classes. “The heart of the institution is still the same,” says Colin. And he should know. He devoted 30 years of his working life to the University, ten of these as Director of Scholarships. During his tenure, he developed the scholarships programme to £4.3m, one of the largest scholarship schemes of any university. When he retired in 2012, the Colin Matheson Scholarship was set up in his name in recognition of the thousands of students from all over the world that he helped in achieving their goals of studying in the UK. The Scholarship is designed to support talented students from developing countries to study for a full-time Masters within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “I have the pleasure of choosing the students,” he explains. “They have to

make an argument about why what they want to study is useful to the development of their nation or region. It’s very heart breaking to make those decisions.” After a career spent devoted to opening doors for bright young people who may not otherwise be able to afford education, Colin decided that the best way to secure his legacy and make sure that future generations could continue enjoying the same opportunities was by pledging a gift to the University in his will. “I intend to be very specific about what is done with my money,” explains Colin. “One of the things that I think is really important is that we contrive to offer full scholarships for international students. Because otherwise, all we are doing is reinforcing middle-class privilege. If we provide full scholarships, then the poorest students from the poorest areas can actually come here. “I also don’t believe the student has to have a first class degree. If someone comes from a deprived background then it would be much harder for them to achieve a really good degree than someone from a middle-class background, where they have had tutors and been to the best schools, when they are just as bright. “I think it’s nice to know that what you’re doing will offer an opportunity that they would not have had otherwise.”

LEAVE A LEGACY TODAY, TRANSFORM LIVES TOMORROW Leaving a legacy is an ideal way to give a gift that you might not be able to give during your lifetime and which will make a lasting impact on future generations of Westminster students. Did you know that: • Leaving a legacy is one of the easiest ways you can make a gift to the University. • You can direct your gift to an area of the University’s work you wish to support in particular. • Making a legacy gift to the University is tax free and can reduce the tax you pay on your entire estate. If you would like to find out more about remembering the University in your will, then please contact our Development Office by phoning 020 3506 6245 or emailing



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Your Legacy A legacy gift to the University of Westminster offers an opportunity to contribute to the lives of future generations in a personal and thoughtful way. Please do let the University know your bequest wishes, so that we can thank you, keep you up to date with our future plans and send you invitations to our events. If you are thinking about leaving a bequest, we are always happy to provide more information. Find out more: W: E: T: +44 (0)20 3506 6245