University Access Projects

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The benefits of a university education on economic and social prospects have been well-documented and John Lyon’s Charity seeks to help young people gain access to university at any level.

We seek to support projects that provide pathways for young people who might not automatically consider that university is for them and enable them to make informed choices and decisions. Equally, we seek to inspire talented young people from state schools to make brave choices and encourage them to aspire to the very best universities in the country. We support a number of initiatives that support young people from a wide variety of backgrounds to gain the necessary skills to help them successfully apply to Russell Group universities or Oxbridge.


IntoUniversity was borne out of the St Clement & St James Community Project in North Kensington. It was developed and co-ordinated by a former university lecturer and there are now 11 IntoUni education centres located in London and 13 further centres across the UK.  John Lyon’s Charity has been supporting IntoUni since 2007 with grants of £285,000.  We are currently supporting their centres in West London. IntoUni addresses academic underachievement, social exclusion and low aspiration among children and young people who are at risk of failing to meet their potential due to social or economic disadvantage. It supports young people to gain a university place or achieve other educational/career goals. Centres target young people who are entitled to Free School Meals, live in social housing or are Looked After. Many will also have no family history of Higher Education, have refugee or asylum seeker status or have special educational needs or display challenging behaviour at school. Services provided are multi-stranded and engage with children from the age of seven. It delivers integrated programmes of out of school study, aspirational coaching and support during the week, weekends and school holidays. Some programmes are delivered in partnership with universities including LSE, UCL, Imperial, De Montford, Westminster and Brunel.

Chelsea Academy

Chelsea Academy were keen participants in Brunel University’s university access scheme which, due to lack of funding, ended in 2013. In order to maintain this kind of provision for its students, Chelsea Academy devised the Urban Scholars Satellite Project, targeted at its gifted and talented students when they are in Year 10 and about to start their GCSE’s. The project, delivered on Saturdays, maintains the schools’ relationship with Brunel University where students will be able to attend a number of sessions on campus each year. Students receive sessions in critical thinking, English, maths, careers and life skills planning, delivered by inspirational speakers. In addition, the project includes sessions for parents on student finance to help dispel myths about the affordability of going to university and also help change attitudes towards higher education. This project is in its first year and we eagerly await the results of this pilot year.


The Lumina initiative is run by Harrow School and is an example of how the independent sector can work with mainstream schools using their expertise to benefit their students. Lumina provides a three-day ‘conference’ for bright Year 12 state sector students in the Charity’s Beneficial Area. It focusses on encouraging students to apply to Oxbridge and Russell Group universities and includes sessions on making effective applications, interview practice and coaching and provides a taste of studying in an historic, traditional academic environment at Harrow School. It also provides undergraduate-style seminars in specific subject areas run by guest university dons and teachers at Harrow School and visits to Open Days at both Oxford and Cambridge. The project was piloted in the summer of 2014 and 123 students from 17 state schools participated. Feedback from students has been very positive; the universities that these students attend will be monitored and we eagerly await the results of this pilot scheme. The course will be repeated from 2 – 4 July 2018. More details can be found here.

Helena Kennedy Foundation

Established in 1997 by Baroness Kennedy QC, the Helena Kennedy Foundation seeks to overcome social injustice by providing financial bursaries, mentoring and support to disadvantaged students, enabling them to remain in education and move on successfully into employment. Students are referred to the Foundation from Further Education colleges across the UK who have identified individual students with the ability to succeed but whose personal and financial circumstances make progression to university and gaining professional employment difficult. John Lyon’s Charity has been awarding grants to the Helena Kennedy Foundation to support students from our Beneficial Area since 2003, amounting to over £300,000. Recipients of bursaries funded by the Charity have gone on to study at universities including University of the Arts, Imperial, UCL and the London School of Pharmacy. We have also supported the Go Higher project which will provide employment to support to bursary holders from the Charity’s Beneficial Area. The challenges faced by students supported by the Helena Kennedy Foundation mean that they often risk being unemployed for at least a year following graduation. This project provided a dedicated work placement matching service to help students move towards fulfilling their career ambitions using 1:1 careers advice sessions and mentoring. The Foundation has links to a wide range of London employers including Royal London Asset Management and The Times Educational Supplement.