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IntoUniversity – Impetus

Inspiring Young People from Disadvantaged Backgrounds to Achieve

  • Social Purpose Organisation (SPO):
  • IntoUniversity
  • Country:
  • United Kingdom
  • Sector:
  • Education
  • Final Beneficiaries:
  • Children and youth

  • Venture Philanthropy Organisation (VPO):
  • Impetus
  • Financial instrument:
  • Grant
  • Funding timeline:
  • 2006-2020
  • Charter Principle:
  • 3) Highly engaged for the long term
  • 5) Measuring and managing impact
  • 6) Providing non-financial support


In the UK, studies have shown that bright children from disadvantaged backgrounds are far less likely to go to university or study A-levels (i.e. qualifications for 16-19 year olds that are highly valued by universities and employers) than their wealthier counterparts[1]. Only 24% of young people from poorer backgrounds go to university, compared to 41% of their better off peers[2]. This means that 14,000 young people miss out on the opportunity each year.

IntoUniversity (IU) provides local learning centres where young people are inspired to achieve. At each local centre, IU offers an innovative programme that supports young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to either obtain a university place or achieve another personal aspiration. The centres provide students with access to resources, such as books and computers, that they may not have at home. One of IU’s main strengths is that its programme is based on the community, putting each centre in a unique position to adapt to the community’s needs and address the social mobility issues more efficiently.

The long term nature of IU’s programme, which starts at 7 and runs to age 18, makes it unique in the sector. Primary and secondary students go to IU centres for Academic Support, where they receive after-school from trained tutors and one-to-one support to help them navigate different qualifications (e.g. GCSE and A-Level) and degree options, do revision, learn exam techniques, complete their university application and improve their interview technique. They also attend a series of FOCUS workshops and older students have the opportunity to join IU’s Mentoring Programme. They are paired with a university student who acts as a role model and who helps them with school work, social skills, and confidence-building.

Additionally, thanks to a partnership with the Royal National Children’s SpringBoard Foundation, IU yearly gives to a selected number of IU students the chance to participate in a bursary programme. The programme offers fully-funded bursary placements to allow young people who would benefit from boarding to study at a state or independent boarding school.



Figures from 2017


young people supported in 2015-2016


of IntoUniversity students progress to higher education (compared to 39% of all students at maintained schools* in the UK)

* Maintained school (England & Wales): a school that is funded by a local education authority


How it started

The idea behind IntoUniversity first emerged in 2000 as a homework club in a local community, when Dr Rachel Carr, who was a university lecturer in west London, noticed that her students were not the same as the young people in the housing estate where she lived. With the backing of the community centre’s Chair of Trustees, Hugh Rayment-Pickard, she began to work with local schools; running workshops in primary schools; taking children to visit universities and providing mentoring support. After three years, the basic structure of IU as it is today was in place but restricted to a smaller scale local project. This changed in 2007 when Rachel and Hugh set up IntoUniversity as a charity and decided to replicate the programme in other areas of London. The Sutton Trust, which had initially provided seed funding, introduced them to Impetus as IU was really aligned with Impetus’ priorities.

Support provided

First round (2006-2011)

Impetus saw IU’s potential and decided to give an initial grant of £400,000 along with intensive support from an in-house investment director who led the Impetus partnership and pro bono partners from Impetus’ extensive network. This first round of multi-year, core funding and organisational support focused on strengthening the charity’s organisational footing, especially financial management, recruitment and IT systems. The charity also added a fundraising team and extra senior management team members. IU managed to exceed expectations on their first business plan. By 2011 they had opened  seven centres in different areas of London. They also started testing their programme outside London, in Nottingham, for the first time.

Second Round (2012-2017)

Impetus invited IU to reapply for funding in 2012, which it did, and received a £1,000,000 grant for replicating the programme outside London, as well as continued support from the lead investment director and pro bono support from Impetus partners, including leading strategy consultants OC&C. OC&C’s work targetted both the development of a longer-term funding strategy and a strategy for  managing the structures of the new centres. The IU senior management team expanded and Impetus brokered individual leadership coaching for the new team. Impetus’ investment director continues to meet the Rachel and Hugh at least once a month to focus on issues of strategy and support.

Third round (2017-2020)

Impetus agreed to provide another grant of £1,000,000 to further scale up and replicate the programme in new areas across England, this time with a focus on under-served regions, of even higher need.

Non-financial support at a glance

  • Business Planning Icon

    Business Planning

  • Financial Management Icon

    Financial Management

  • Fundraising Icon


  • Governance Icon


  • ICT Icon


  • Legal Advice Icon

    Legal Advice

  • Management Team and CEO Support Icon

    Management Team and CEO Support

  • Operational Management Icon

    Operational Management

  • Revenue Strategy Icon

    Revenue Strategy

  • Strategy Consulting Icon

    Strategy Consulting

  • Theory of Change IM Icon

    Theory of change, Impact Strategy & Impact Measurement

Impact Measurement

In parallel with strengthening IU’s organisational capacity, Impetus has helped IU to use data to drive and understand their impact. IU hired a Data and Impact Manager quite early on, and worked together with Impetus to identify what data to collect, encourage staff to collect it and produce dashboards that staff can use to see what is happening on the ground and adapt what they are doing accordingly.

In 2006 IU supported 860 young people, rising today to 30,000. Its target for 2019/20 is to support 41,000 young people.

IU also started measuring student retention then to  implement a retention strategy, including attendance targets for centres and rewards for students with a good attendance record. This allowed IU to introduce the use of data and targets in a positive, safe and non-judgemental way.

By 2016, IU’s data was generating impressive results: 75% of their students progressed to university that year. IU is also able to show that their students do considerably better with their help than they would have done otherwise. About 90% of IU’s students come from the poorest families in the country; nationally only 24% of young people from these families go to university.

During the 11 years of its partnership with Impetus, IU has grown from that one centre in North Kensington, to become the UK’s largest charity working on university access. Equally impressive is that they have kept a relentless focus on maintaining the quality and integrity of their work as they grow. IU continuously reviews its programme as it grows, to ensure it keeps achieving such impressive outcomes in the new locations, which come with their own challenges.

You can find IntoUniversity’s latest impact report here.

What they think

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IU’s current plan sees it opening nine new centres to take the programme into six areas with some of the lowest university participation rates in the country, and where there are few other providers.

Rachel and Hugh are now working with the Impetus investment director, Sarah Young, on the post-2020 business plan with the support of OC&C to see when and how they should unroll their next wave of expansion.

Thanks to Impetus’ long-term financial and non-financial support, IntoUniversity has a strong model in place that can be replicated in other areas and cities across the country.



Watch the trailer of our success story video:




[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/social-inequalities-and-post-16-choices

[2] Department for Education, Widening Participation in Higher Education, England, 2014/15 age cohort, August 2017