Sheffield Hallam has been named Higher Education Institution of the Year at the National Education Opportunities Network (NEON) Awards, in recognition of the University’s commitment to widening access to higher education and enabling social mobility.

The University received the accolade at the annual awards ceremony yesterday (Wednesday 11 May) for its work to improve access to higher education and support progression through university for students from underrepresented backgrounds.

Presenting the award, NEON Director Professor Graeme Atherton, praised the University’s consistent, long-term commitment to widening access and its partnership working across the region. He also recognised Sheffield Hallam’s role as leader of the Civic University Network, which brings together Universities across the country to share best practice.

Sheffield Hallam educates more students from underrepresented backgrounds than any other UK university – and has done for six consecutive years.

Of its 33,000 strong student community, 97 per cent are from state schools and colleges, over half are the first in their family to attend university and more than 65 per cent are from disadvantaged, underrepresented, or vulnerable groups.

Through partnerships with local schools and colleges, the University’s widening participation team delivers targeted outreach sessions to more than 60,000 young people every year – helping to reach those underrepresented groups who might not have considered higher education. Sheffield Hallam, in partnership with the University of Sheffield, has funded the Higher Education Progression Partnership (Hepp) for 10 years and is also lead partner of HeppSY – a Uni Connect programme funded by the Office for Students – to provide impartial higher education advice to learners from underrepresented groups.

The SHU Progress scheme provides support for applicants whose personal circumstances might mean that there are barriers to going to university. There is additional support throughout the application process, including the transition to becoming a university student.

Sheffield Hallam also leads South Yorkshire Futures (SYF), the biggest university social mobility programme in the country, and is host of the national Civic University Network. The Network enhances the ways in which universities maximise their local impact, including improving education for school pupils and adult learners.

As well as the work Sheffield Hallam does to drive social mobility by improving access to higher education, it also delivers wraparound support services for current students who require extra help to complete their studies successfully.

This commitment means that students from underrepresented groups are more likely to continue their studies, supporting social mobility through education and employment opportunities.

Anna Toyne, Head of Access Development at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “It's fantastic to receive this award in recognition of the work done across the University supporting all students to access and thrive in higher education.

“Fair access and support for all our students is in our DNA at Sheffield Hallam. It was great for that to be acknowledged by the sector and our peers.”

The NEON award follows a number of recent award wins for the University including University of the Year at both the Social Mobility Awards and the Educate North Awards. The University was also named Outstanding Entrepreneurial University at the Times Higher Education Awards.

NEON is the professional organisation supporting those involved in widening access to higher education. The NEON Awards celebrate the transformative power that HE can have and recognises key achievements in the widening access sector.