LBU Together

How UJIMA helps challenge low self-belief, raises aspirations and encourages students into higher education

As part of Black History Month we look at the impact of UJIMA and how it helps underrepresented groups enter and prepare for Higher Education.

Abstract art in front of James Graham Building on Headingley Campus

What is UJIMA?

UJIMA is a high-impact, transformational residential project. Now in its 19th year, the programme is for Black African & Black Caribbean boys aged 15-16 with high levels of intersectional disadvantage. The project is built on evidence and uses inspirational ambassadors and staff to transform educational outcomes and deliver high entry rates into higher education. UJIMA is one of Leeds Beckett University’s flagship longitudinal outreach programmes.

UJIMA has ambitions to be a transformational experience. The three-day residential programme combines academic, professional and student engagement to challenge low self-belief, raise aspirations and encourage students to progress into higher education.

How was the programme designed?

The UJIMA programme has been developed following extensive research, including insight gathered from students, parents and teachers, as well as formal research from groups such as the Runnymede Trust and staff members from BAME backgrounds.

We designed the programme to be engaging and challenging through interactive, thought-provoking workshops led by a range of facilitators including university academics, sports coaches and motivational speakers.

We ensure that students are able to engage with role models they can relate to. This includes recruiting specific BAME ambassadors to form the core student staffing for the residential. Our approach leads to one of the most powerful parts of the programme, Talking Heads. Talking Heads captures stories of inspiring role models and an opportunity for the participants to engage in challenging and far-reaching conversations to consider the lessons learned, decisions-made and challenges encountered by the invited guests.

Who do we work with?

The programme works with Year 10 boys from Black Caribbean and Black African backgrounds. 58% of participants met all deprivation indicators relating to IMD and POLAR measures. Students selected are typically living in some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in the city of Leeds and in the UK as a whole. We work with teaching staff in key schools to select students who would benefit most from the intervention.

UJIMA participant, Lance Pryce, said: “UJIMA is a steppingstone to future success. It provides the opportunity to seek further opportunities beyond what you can first see before attending. It was the ideal platform in determining what I wanted to do at university and inspired me to pursue further life goals. Communication through public speaking is one of the many skills that were developed as a result embracing all that UJIMA offered. Interacting with the ambassadors and staff members alike enabled me to gain insights and knowledge beyond what you can learn in the classroom or lecture theatre. Being involved in UJIMA enabled me to grow in confidence!”

Success measures

We tracked students through our HEAT database and found that 63% of students progressed to higher education compared to an average of 25% of a comparator group. There was a measurable change in attitudes towards higher education, specifically the confidence to apply and knowledge about the application process and university degrees.

Roundhay School teacher, Anne Powley, said: “Students who have attended this programme have often done so with trepidation as it means stepping out of their comfort zone. However, their feedback following [the] residential is amazing. Their confidence and self-belief is enhanced which drives their motivation to achieve at GCSE and A Level to gain a university place. As a school we value this opportunity for our students.”