Greater Manchester learners attend Uni Connect parliamentary launch

The Office for Students (OfS) launched it’s Uni Connect programme on 29 January 2020. The event saw the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, the Rt Hon Chris Skidmore MP, Sir Michael Barber, Chair of the Office for Students and Director for Fair Access and Participation, Chris Millward meet representatives from the programme including young learners.

Working towards reducing the gap in higher education

The Uni Connect programme will work towards reducing the gap in higher education participation and support young people to make well-informed decisions about their future education. Across England, the local hubs help 1,613 schools and colleges, offering impartial advice, guidance. Activities are delivered to over 180,000 young people and their parents or carers.

Speech delivery 

Two learners from The Deanery Church of England High School, Wigan, Sophie Harwoord and Lucy Coleman attended the launch and delivered talks about their Greater Manchester Higher experiences and how the activities they’ve been involved in have had a positive impact and helped develop their knowledge and skills.

Their speeches were definitely the highlight of the evening and they were both given a huge round of applause. As they finished speaking, audience members were keen speak with them and to thank them for sharing their stories, they continued to receive praise from many that were present at the event across social media. Their willingness to deliver their speeches to the packed room (and speak with little time to prep) and their confidence and public speaking skills, were beyond impressive.

Sophie’s testimonial 

We also caught up with Sophie prior to the event. Over the last year, Sophie has taken part in a range of activities, including The Brilliant Club, a STEM HE Taster Day and Wise Up, Uni:4U summer school; “if I had the chance, I would go to a Uni:4U summer school again. You get to be around new people, away from home, live on campus, and it makes it all seem more real. I realised a lot about myself and liked being independent and meeting people I wouldn’t have otherwise met. Some of the student ambassadors working at the summer school were studying engineering. Talking to them really helped grow my interest and it’s helped me to decide that I want to study engineering in the future.”

GM Higher activities have helped Sophie to make informed decisions; “the activities I have been involved in have encouraged me to work hard and have helped me to know I want to go to university, they’ve reinforced my decision that university is for me. They have helped me to choose what A-Levels I want to do and they’ve helped me to make the decision that I want to stay on at sixth form. I’ve also started to think about what I want to do after school.”

In the future, Sophie plans to study an Engineering Degree Apprenticeship or an Engineering degree at a Russell Group University.

You can read Sophie’s full testimonial here.



  1. Lucy and Sophie outside the Houses of Parliament
  2. Lucy and Sophie delivering their speeches
  3. Chris Millward (Chair of the Office for Students and Director for Fair Access and Participation), Sophie, Lucy and Nicola Dandridge (Chief Executive, Office for Students)

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