Cambridge student from one of London’s most deprived boroughs to launch awards celebrating the achievements of students from disadvantaged backgrounds

15th April 2021

On Thursday 15th April, social mobility advocate Victoria Ayodeji will be launching the 2020/21 Student Social Mobility Awards during an online launch event to open nominations, having herself received the Outstanding Achievement Award in 2019/20.

The Student Social Mobility Awards celebrate outstanding achievements of students, creating vital role models for those from less-advantaged backgrounds. They also recognise teachers, mentors, employers and universities who have helped advance social mobility during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Victoria commented: (See below for a detailed interview with Victoria)

“I’m proud to launch the Awards because I want students from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds to know that there are abundant opportunities open to them, sometimes it’s just knowing where to look, cultivating a support network, and having role models. Winning the Outstanding Achievement Award was a reminder to me that your background need not limit what you can achieve. My drive and resilience has helped me to overcome barriers and obstacles to success along the way.”

John Craven, Chief Executive of upReach, commented:

“This year, the effects of the pandemic have exacerbated existing socioeconomic inequalities, making aspirational events like the Student Social Mobility Awards more important than ever before. The Awards shine a spotlight on inspirational role models who have often shown incredible resilience, determination and initiative to succeed despite the challenges of the pandemic, and often overcoming barriers linked with coming from a less-privileged background.”

The pandemic has affected disadvantaged students more than others, with lost learning, unequal access to university and careers support, and employers reducing work experience and internship opportunities. Research from the Sutton Trust shows that 76% of students are worried about not being able to gain the skills and experience needed for employment when they graduate. Undergraduates from less-advantaged backgrounds often have inferior access to a professional network, and hence lack the role models and learning opportunities necessary to succeed.

Victoria Ayodeji, host of the launch, achieved tremendous success despite growing up in a single parent household in one of London’s most deprived boroughs, Victoria achieved A* A* A* at A-Level and went on to secure a place at Cambridge University, where (out of 600 students) she was awarded the Queens’ College Cyril Bibby Prize. A vocal social mobility ambassador, Victoria has previously spoken at the Houses of Parliament and is the youngest person to sit on The Petchey Academy's Leadership and Strategy board for the Career Ready Social Mobility Programme.

The Student Social Mobility Awards are divided into different categories:


There are awards for students who have achieved, or have the highest potential to achieve, outstanding success academically, professionally and/or personally. There are also awards for those who have championed social mobility.

Employers and Universities

Recognising an employer and a university initiative that has effectively boosted social mobility, as determined by a student vote.


Recognising a teacher who has gone above and beyond, making a significant contribution to broadening career horizons, boosting aspirations or facilitating the future success of students from less advantaged backgrounds.


Recognising an individual who has made a significant contribution to improving the employability of students from less-advantaged backgrounds.

The judging process

Winners will be selected by an independent judging panel, to be announced in May, once initial shortlisting has been completed. The panel will comprise ten leading representatives from the fields of politics, academia, education and business, with significant youth representation. Three Awards will be determined by a student vote taking place from 16th - 30th July 2021.

upReach are grateful to our sponsors, including Bank of America, the Platinum Sponsor of the third Student Social Mobility Awards, and Aviva, the Silver Sponsor. Their generous support enables students from all over the UK to attend the ceremony and have their expenses reimbursed.

You can learn more about the Student Social Mobility Awards at

Contact details:

John Craven (Chief Executive) Email: Tel: 07971274469

Lidia Barbuti (Senior Brand, Marketing and Communications Officer) Email:


Q&A with Victoria Ayodeji

What impact has winning a Student Social Mobility Award had on you?

“I was honoured to be recognised amongst the many championing social mobility. If there’s one thing that drives me more than anything else, it’s the belief that everyone should have access to opportunities in life irrespective of their background. This should be true both domestically and internationally. Winning the Student Social Mobility Award was a reminder for me, that my background hasn’t, in any way, limited my drive and resilience to surpass any barriers and obstacles to achieving success. I want students from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds to know that there are abundant opportunities available to them, and almost all will prove to be invaluable. I encourage everyone to help make all environments accessible and welcoming to all. I’ll keep doing my best and hope to move into channels that will open up conversations about social mobility in the UK and worldwide.”

What did you enjoy about the ceremony in particular?

“I enjoyed meeting the other nominees, such inspirational people who have overcome a lot of challenges and despite this continue to thrive. The college I attend at Cambridge (Queens’ College) was also highly commended in their award category on the night for the amazing access work they do across the country.”

Why are you excited about hosting the 2020/21 Launch event?

“I’m excited about hosting the 2020/21 Launch event as I believe the Student Social Mobility Awards highlights those who have often gone unnoticed in being selfless with helping those from disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue the education and opportunities they deserve. But on a broader note, promoting social mobility and bringing about systemic change will both be essential in creating a genuinely equitable society, it’s even more wonderful to have the core aim of addressing inequalities in opportunity being acknowledged and re-affirmed."