Darcie Jones and Donna Butler

The outstanding success of students from the University of Plymouth who were the first in their families to attend university is being highlighted in a new national campaign.
Darcie Jones, a history graduate and current Vice-President for Education in the University of Plymouth Students' Union, and Donna Butler, a Law graduate and partner in a solicitors firm, are part of the 100 Faces campaign led by Universities UK.
The movement aims to champion and celebrate the positive impact of 'first-in-the-family' (FitF) graduates, highlighting the need for access to support, and ensuring the next generation can reach their graduate potential. 
Among the 100 Faces success stories are England footballer Beth Mead, Lord David Blunkett, Nobel Prize winner Sir Chris Pissarides and actor Amit Shah.
Plymouth's Darcie and Donna both grew up in the city, and have been named in the UUK Local Heroes category and Business and Charity Innovators category respectively. 

About Darcie

Darcie was born and raised in Plymouth and comes from a single parent household.
Despite her original teaching aspirations, she decided to enter the student union elections in her final year of university and become involved in student advocacy. 
She is currently Vice-President for Education in the University of Plymouth Students' Union, and has travelled across the UK to advocate for working class students.  
Darcie Jones
Darcie Jones 

Going to university has made a larger difference to my life than I ever could have expected, both in a social and academic sense.

Socially, going to university has opened options within creating friendships and experiences that were not an option to me beforehand. 
Thanks to the friendships made in my journey, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to different countries and experience different cultures, something I hadn’t previously had the opportunity to do.

The largest difference that university has made to my life is giving me access to become an active member of the student movement.

Within my time at university, I struggled with shyness and overall confidence, however becoming a part of the student representation and activism movement within my third year allowed me to begin an unexpected yet passionate career in student movements within student unions.
Darcie Jones, BA (Hons) History graduate and VP Education in the University of Plymouth Students' Union 
Donna Butler
Donna Butler

About Donna

Donna Butler is a solicitor and partner at Beers LLP – a solicitors with offices in Plymouth and Kingsbridge. 
She studied Law at the University of Plymouth as a mature student, and continues her strong links with the University by being part of its mentoring programme.

When I went to the University to have a discussion with the Head of Law at the time, he was so friendly and welcoming. It made me think this was somewhere I wanted to be. The fact it was my home city as well – I've long been captured by the sea and the moors – was an extra tick in a box.

I really enjoyed my time at Plymouth. It was definitely the right choice for me. I continued to work with law firms around my study. I was on the Student Law Society committee and organised a law fair. 

The University of Plymouth Law Clinics were very useful, working closely with lawyers in private practice. A win-win for students and clients – developing skills in how to handle clients, in research, how to run a file, while gaining experience to put on your CV when you are looking for that elusive training contract.

As a mature student, there was definitely a difference in the relationship with the lecturers. We were seen as a calming influence on some of the younger students. It was a friendly, supportive atmosphere, with a chance for fun. I ensured I made the most of my student experience. 
Donna Butler, solicitor and partner at Beers LLP 

About the 100 Faces campaign

  • As part of the UUK campaign, new research reveals the transformative impact of going to university on ambition (74%), with almost three quarters (73%) of FitF students agreeing their degree gave them the confidence to apply for jobs without feeling like an imposter.
  • The research also highlights FitF students' reliance on depreciating financial support; without financial support, over four in 10 FitF graduates couldn't have afforded to go to university at all. This is equivalent to around 1.1 million 24–40-year-olds in England and Wales.
  • With financial provisions dwindling and the cost of living rising, UUK is calling for government to reinstate maintenance grants and increase support for future students.
These findings come from extensive new research, commissioned by Universities UK, into the experiences of 6,004 UK graduates and 4,006 non-graduates, aged 24–40, from across the UK.
The success of students like Darcie and Donna is testament to the extraordinary role university can play – particularly for those students who are the first in their family to attend and face significant barriers before they even set foot on campus. 
Despite this inequality, FitF students flourish at university, with three quarters of FitF respondents saying that their experiences at university made them more confident and ambitious, gave them broader life experiences and crucial life skills which continue to be impactful long after graduation. 
However, the research also pointed to the need for uplifted financial support to ensure that FitF students are able to progress. 
100 Faces lead image
100 Faces 
Over four in 10 (41%) FitF students believe that without financial assistance they wouldn't have been able to afford to go to university, and when non-graduates from across the UK were asked what might have persuaded them to attend university, almost half (48%) responded more financial support. 
Many graduates responding to this survey were eligible for non-repayable maintenance grants as students, which were replaced by repayable loans, in England in 2016, although maintenance grants continue to operate in Wales, Scotland and for some healthcare courses in England. 
In light of this, UUK is campaigning to highlight the achievements of the extraordinary first in family graduates in every community, and to ensure that future generations don't miss out on the transformative impact of a university education.  

There are those who say that too many people go to university. I disagree. These stories tell you why. In this country, you are still twice as likely to go to university if you are from the wealthiest background, compared to the least wealthy. That's not right.

The experiences of students who are the first in their families to have been to university tell a powerful story. I am amazed by how many graduates talked about having imposter syndrome – and the way that earning a degree helped to banish that feeling. I believe we have a responsibility to keep working to ensure a wider range of people in this country get access to the potentially transformative experience of going to university. 
For that to happen, we really do need to see an improvement in maintenance support to support those from the least privileged backgrounds. 
Vivienne Stern MBE
Chief Executive of Universities UK 

Our aim at the University of Plymouth is to advance knowledge and transform lives for all of our current and aspiring students, regardless of their background or circumstances.

Darcie and Donna are two brilliant examples of graduates who were the first in their family to attend University, and we're really proud of what they have gone on to achieve.
We believe that University presents a world of opportunity for everyone, and we have a strong reputation for supporting otherwise under-represented groups to successfully progress to higher education. It's a pleasure to support the UUK 100 Faces campaign and further champion the support needed to raise aspirations.

John CurnowJohn Curnow
Deputy Vice Chancellor, Education and Student Experience

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