Lou Byrne our HEI Liaison Manager leaving AHL

As my time Aimhigher London is drawing to a close, I’ve been reflecting on the journey so far….

I first worked in collaboration with Aimhigher back in 2007, on a project I was involved in supporting care experienced young people and it was through this I started to find out more about widening participation, outreach, and university progression – I even reached out to one of the Aimhigher partners, University of Roehampton to find out how to move into the field!

In a few years, I was managing large outreach projects at the London School of Economics and later at St Mary’s University, and I continued to collaborate with Aimhigher London going on to join the company in 2017, bringing a great knowledge of the relationships between our university partners and the unique programme Aimhigher London offers.

It’s been a pleasure working with our school and university partners, I have always been so impressed with your dedication to the young people we support, the shared passion we all have for making a difference, not just to their educational outcomes but to inspire them to be the change in their generation, to overcome their barriers to progression and with I feel fortunate to have worked with you.

Some of my highlights are leading ‘Debate Higher’, collaborating with our schools and universities on a project that really did instil confidence and self-awareness in the learners who took part. We watched them examine many aspects of debating and public speaking, explore inequalities in our society, particularly who holds the power at the top, and I do hope the 18months or so we got to work together will have sown a seed with many of them to be the change that we so desperately need.

The Learner Progression Programme has also been integral to my role at Aimhigher London. It’s been delightful to contribute and deliver a sustained and progressive programme that has genuinely impacted about 5,000 young people to think outside their worlds, to explore their futures gradually, within a supportive network, taking away mis-conceptions, fears and replacing them with self-belief.  

Of course, there have been low points, I don’t think I ever imagined delivering from my living room via virtual links whilst the world shut down, but with a strong team around me and the support of our partners, we all pulled it off.  I recall an event at Goldsmiths when despite train holdups, bomb scares and road accidents across London, everyone turned up to a packed post-16 event, we had so many there was no seats left in the lecture hall for ambassadors, always a good sign!

I would particularly like to thank the student ambassadors, they really are the magic fairy dust in all this work. I have been fortunate to work with so many fantastic, dedicated students, they really bring our work to life for our school learners. I know I worked them hard and perhaps they have cursed me a little under their breath but all for a good cause!

As a widening participation student, myself, I am very conscious of just how impactful these programmes can be to open up new possibilities. I can absolutely say working with the partners and young people involved in the Aimhigher London programmes has been rewarding, challenging and inspiring.  

My next step is taking me home across the Irish Sea to Wexford, for a new adventure. In the meantime, I wish you all the very best and to keep up the good fight, I feel very motivated and encouraged by the current generation of young people, they have they had a tough backdrop to grow up in and are facing challenges like no other, but they are worth investing in.


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