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Ulster University has been named winner of the Responsible Technology Innovation Award, sponsored by Allstate NI, at the 2023 Responsible Business Awards in Northern Ireland.

The Awards are the most prestigious and respected awards championing responsible business, by showcasing transformational stories of businesses taking real action to build thriving communities.

Recognising its civic responsibility, Ulster University focuses on ‘Widening Access’ to education.  Currently, approximately 39% of Ulster students have widening access indicators. The University’s Schools Outreach Team identifies and enables pupils from under-represented groups and low socio-economic areas, to increase higher education progression rates and address under-representation in Northern Ireland.

Development of the Discovery Academy:

The ‘Ulster University Discovery Academy’, an innovative Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), has been developed to widen access to Ulster University by removing logistical and socioeconomic barriers, offering a wide range of courses to allow pupils, from Key Stage 3  to Key Stage 5, to explore university pathways by demystifying the university’s undergraduate offering.

Through the Discovery Academy, the University can offer young people direct educational access to Ulster University FREE 24/7 from their phone, laptop, mobile or App.

Outcomes and Benefits:

As a result of the Discovery Academy – outcomes and benefits have included:

  • Significantly increased pupil engagement, knowledge, confidence, and aspiration levels – engagement with 73% of Northern Ireland’s post-primary schools
  • Over 21,000 pupils have enrolled in the Ulster University Discovery Academy since its launch (in September 2021)
  • Enhanced understanding of higher education pathways and increased desire to apply to university
  • Improved accessibility and inclusivity, catering to different learning styles, abilities, and backgrounds
  • Young people empowered to make informed decisions about their future, driving local economies, and ensuring diversity and inclusion
  • Positive impact on Ulster University’s sustainability and carbon reporting, with decreased carbon footprint due to reduced transportation and paper waste
  • Collaborative partnerships with schools, community, industry and regional colleges to support skills development and social mobility
  • Alignment with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 - Quality Education, promoting lifelong learning opportunities.

The Ulster University Discovery Academy serves as a model for inclusive and sustainable education outreach, making a profound and lasting impact on young people’s lives and society at large.

The Discovery Academy addresses the university’s ‘People-Place-Partnership’ Strategy, Sustainability & Carbon Reporting, alongside the annual Ulster University Widening Access Plans and targets which are set and regulated by the Department of Economy.

On winning the award, Professor Ruth Fee, Interim Dean of Academic Business Development, said:

“At Ulster University , we are delighted to have been named winner of the Responsible Technology Innovation Award, sponsored by Allstate NI, at this year’s Responsible Business Awards in Northern Ireland, in recognition of our use of technology in delivering the Discovery Academy.

“The Academy is accessible to all pupils, eliminating the need for expensive campus visits and reducing our carbon footprint. It has maximised the ease and equality of access to young people, to catalyse their potential, and equip them to make their personal impact on the world.

“Since its launch in September 2021, the Discovery Academy has enrolled over 21,000 pupils from 73% of Northern Ireland’s post-primary schools, and it offers 65+ courses complementing the school curriculum.

“Rooted in the desire to give young people the opportunity to see themselves at university, the Discovery Academy enables pupils to use technology to widen their horizons, allowing them to gain experience of higher education, raising their aspirations, removing barriers and improving their future employment.”

On the award success, the Judges said:

“Ulster University demonstrated excellent use, and innovative application, of the technology to produce a great set of outcomes. There were very wide-ranging benefits to society, including teachers, pupils, parents and the economy. There has been a clear benefit to the University in terms of cost savings, carbon footprint, and engagement.”

Find out more:

More details of the 2023 Responsible Business Awards are available at

You can find out more about Ulster University’s Discovery Academy at this link.