UWE graduate wins Xcel Student of the Year

Issue date: 14 February 2011

University of the West of England Geography graduate, Robert Nichols was awarded the honour of Xcel Student of the Year at the recent Xcel Student Awards 2010 in London.

This award topped off a successful evening for the University winning four out of the eight categories with students, Alexandru Atudosie and Jessica Winter also being honoured for their outstanding achievements. The awards were presented by TV presenter, Konnie Huq.

The Xcel Student of the Year Awards scheme is designed to raise aspirations and encourage student achievement. The scheme celebrates the success of outstanding students from all backgrounds all over the UK. Nominations cover eight categories and aim to identify high achieving, proactive students who are making a contribution to life both inside and outside the university and are potential role models for future students. All nominations are judged by a panel of experts.

Xcel Student of the Year, Robert Nichols from Hastings was also the winner in the Construction, Built Environment and Engineering category. Robert has shown diligence and bravery to achieve his degree in Geography which was paved with difficult and traumatic setbacks. Robert carries the responsibility of being the sole carer for his mother who has suffered multiple serious illnesses. He took a year out of studying to take on the role of full time carer when his mother's health worsened. Robert was unaware of the special dispensation for full-time carers made available through the Government, and relied on his maintenance loans as his core income while he cared for his mother.

The University was able to help support Robert through his third year of studies via funding awarded through the Access to Learning Fund. He also decided to spread his final year over a two year period to enable him to complete his university course whilst supporting his mother through extended trips home throughout the two year period, going on to achieve a hard earned 2:1 in his final degree.

On achieving his award, Robert said, “I was absolutely delighted to have been nominated for an Xcel student of the year award in Construction, Built Environment and Engineering and thrilled to receive it. I was very surprised and deeply moved to have also won the overall student of the year award. All of the winners had achieved so much or overcome such difficulties that each of them would have deserved the award.

The evening and award ceremony was splendid and I was deeply honoured to be a part of it. I met some truly inspirational people and I would like to congratulate all of the Xcel award winners, as well as all those who were nominated. I would like to thank Chris Spencer for the nomination and the entire GEM team at UWE for their support and guidance throughout my academic studies, as well as Xcel and the corporate sponsors who made such a special event possible.”

The Economics, Finance and Management award went to Year two BSc Management student Alexandru Atudosie. Having relocated from Romania to Bristol with his family in 2005, Alexandru had to master English from scratch in just four years. Readjusting to the British culture and a vastly different education system was also a challenge which he has embraced, even taking a job as a door-to door salesman before applying to University to improve his linguistic ability. This tenacity has driven Alexandru to excel in his studies; he has already started his ACCA qualification (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), which has helped him secure a placement at leading accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers for his sandwich year. Alexandru is also committed to helping out his fellow students as a Peer Assisted Learning Leader undertaking several project including facilitating statistics sessions for first year business students.

LLB Law student, Jessica Winter from Sherborne in Dorset won Xcel's Business, Commerce and Law Award. Now in the final year of her degree, Jessica Winter's challenge has been met differently to those faced by other students. She has dyspraxia which can at times affect her concentration, language and perception. Away from her studies, Jessica has devoted her spare time to others; to her fellow students as a course representative, student ambassador and treasurer for the Law and Debating and Disability Awareness Societies and to the wider community as a voluntary worker and through her work for the UWE pro bono scheme - Community Legal Advice and Representation Service.

Dean of Students, Jonathan Bradley said, “Congratulations to all our winners, they are a credit to the University and an inspiration to students everywhere of what can be achieved through courage, compassion and sheer determination.”
Since the Xcel Student awards were founded in 2008, UWE has enjoyed continual success. In 2009 UWE was named Best Institute of Widening Participation and won student awards in the Entrepreneur and Economics and Finance categories. In 2008 UWE won Xcel Humanities Student of the Year.

For more information see: Xcel Awards

FFI: Jane Kelly or Mary Price, Press Officers


Tel: 0117 32 82208

 E-mail: Jane.Kelly@uwe.ac.uk or Mary.Price@uwe.ac.uk

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