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Ulster University commitment breaks down barriers to educational attainment

Jonathan Williamson, PwC Belfast and Hollie George, Ulster University graduate

As graduation season continues, Ulster University and PwC are celebrating the success of one graduate in particular who, despite challenging personal circumstances, excelled in her studies and is now a member of the PwC team in Belfast.

Hollie George, who graduates today with a BSc Sociology & Criminology from Ulster University, has been in foster care for most of her life.

Speaking about her university experience, Hollie said:

“The challenges I faced during university are very similar to those every other student faces, although I had additional personal challenges about who I was and whether I was going to be accepted. Foster care can really impact on confidence. I was worried I would be judged and questioned if I would belong there.  I was relieved to find that this was not the case. I was openly welcomed into university life as part of a really close student community and was given a lot of support throughout my studies.”

As part of a Widening Access and Participation (WAP) programme, Ulster University holds a strong position as a sector leader in developing new routes to ensure that those who are currently underrepresented can gain access to higher education and onwards into high-value careers.

Ulster University offers a wide range of advice and support for young people who have been looked after by their local authority in foster or residential care.

This includes financial support, year-round accommodation, and advice and guidance from dedicated Student Support Outreach Advisers.

Hollie continued:

“The support officer assigned to me helped with assignments and ensured I received my ‘care-leaver’ bursary which is a great incentive. I have learned that your independence is the key to success and it has encouraged me to push myself, with brilliant teaching staff and numerous support officers who have guided me along the way. I’m really excited to be taking up a full time client executive role with a global firm like PwC and I cannot wait to kickstart my career.”

Welcoming Hollie to her new career with PwC Jonathan Williamson, a director in Belfast said:

“This is an important issue and one where business needs to step up and take a lead. We want to get the message across that working at PwC is about how far you can go, rather than where you came from. In a diverse and competitive world, we need to bring the best talent to our clients, regardless of race, gender, social background or orientation. We’re delighted to welcome Hollie to PwC and look forward to helping her plan her career and her future with us.”

Professor Brian Murphy, Director of Access Digital & Distributed Learning said:

“For economies and societies to truly thrive, it is essential that we support and nurture talent from all backgrounds and all parts of society. Personal circumstances or social background should not be a barrier to educational attainment and the realisation of ambitions.

"Ulster University has a longstanding reputation for supporting and nurturing equality of opportunity in accessing higher education and Hollie’s success with one of the world’s largest consultancy firms is a shining example of how university can help open doors to valuable careers, develop confidence and inspire.”