Edinburgh universities: Disabled young people graduate from Edinburgh Napier University

Youngsters break down disability barriers

Edinburgh Napier University hosted a unique graduation ceremony this week for a group of students who successfully completed ENABLE’s Breaking Barriers programme. The ground-breaking initiative, established in 2018, empowers young people who have a learning disability to access university life whilst being fully supported to thrive.

Over the course of several months, a group of students have completed a learning programme at Edinburgh Napier University and a work placement with the course’s corporate partner, multinational professional services provider – EY. The course aims to tackle the widespread lack of opportunities for young people with learning disabilities to enter the workforce. Recent data shows that while 45 per cent of all Scotland’s school leavers go to university, only 8.6 per cent of school leavers who have a learning disability go on to higher education.

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The Breaking Barriers business class of 2022 came together this week for joyful celebrations with friends and family in the River Suite at Edinburgh Napier University, after all achieving their Accreditation in Applied Business Skills. One of the students, Gemma, said: “I’m so happy to have successfully completed the Breaking Barriers programme, it was such a valuable experience that has benefited me a lot and I now feel ready to take my next step into further education or employment.

L-R Jack, Adam, Gemma, Micheal, Cameron, Aadam and Aunonto.

“I used to find school and college quite overwhelming but thanks to the support Breaking Barriers offers I’ve really enjoyed the university environment and the chance to meet lots of new people. It was lovely to all come together to celebrate our achievement with our family and friends.”

ENABLE CEO and co-founder of the Breaking Barriers programme, Theresa Shearer, said: “Since 2018, the Breaking Barriers programme has made it possible for students who have a learning disability to access the life-shaping experience of university that is a rite of passage for so many, yet it is currently available to so few disabled young people.

“Breaking Barriers demonstrates how the public, private and third sectors can work collaboratively to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in education and the workplace. Thanks to our partners at Edinburgh Napier University and EY, I am delighted to see those opportunities extended to even more young people across Scotland, and I congratulate what I am sure will be the first group of many from the programme at Napier.”

Philip Milne, EY sponsor partner in Scotland for Breaking Barriers, said: “It was our pleasure to welcome the students to our team for six weeks. As part of their work placement, the students rotated across all of our core service lines, showed curiosity by asking pertinent questions, and importantly grew in confidence every week. At the graduation event we heard the success stories of students who had been encouraged by their experience, to explore further education and employment - a true example of how breaking barriers down can make a difference.”

The students who successfully completed ENABLE’s Breaking Barriers programme.

Professor Nazira Karodia, vice principal of learning and teaching at Edinburgh Napier University said: “We have been delighted to welcome our ENABLE students to our Craiglockhart campus, where our vision is to be the business school for empowerment, enterprise, and employability for all.”

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