4 min read

Alya Harding

BA (Hons) International Development Graduate

I’m the founder of Valued Mind, a youth-led organisation focused on enhancing the personal and professional development of Black minority and ethnic groups in higher education across the UK, through research and advocacy. As an organisation passionate about supporting the development of young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds, the ethics of Santander Universities in creating opportunities to promote sustainable impact for young people in education, entrepreneurship and employability, greatly aligns with us. 

We initially started with the mission to support students who identified as Black or who were from lower socio-economic backgrounds into work placement opportunities. However, due to the pandemic all placement opportunities fostered abroad and nationally were disrupted. Wanting to still raise awareness of the challenges students from these backgrounds faced, we turned to more research and advocacy projects. The freelance grant in particular will help us deliver the report of our #FGMonCampus Campaign which launched 6 February for International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), 2021. The campaign brought together students from across the UK to strategise and plan actions on how to address the stigma associated with FGM and on related teaching, training and resources in academia. The goal is to ensure support for students affected by FGM. The grant will assist the development of the report drawing on the discussions from the campaign launch which will be published and distributed across universities in the UK for next year’s International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, 2022. 

The impact of the fund is unique in the sense that often when we think about supporting young people in education or with employability, we focus on helping them develop technical skills. However, for young people to be well-equipped for their academic or professional journey, we must address issues outside of these scopes, understand the additional barriers that challenge young people at a personal level from unleashing their full potential. For instance, sexual violence on campus experienced by students has a direct impact on their engagement with their studies. The report looking at FGM as well as interlinked topics of sexual and reproductive health and rights, racism and mental health at university level will hopefully emphasise a holistic approach in supporting young people in education.

Mia McTigue-Rodriguez

BA (Hons) Creative and Media Writing Graduate

I’m a freelance writer, content creator and social media manager based in South East London. Luckily, thanks to retained clients and part-time work, neither me or my business have suffered too drastically due to the pandemic. 

I was suggested to apply for this grant by Katia Shipulina, owner of Motional Studio. She had to adapt her studio’s services based on constantly changing COVID-19 restrictions. Katia was keen to outsource someone to support with copywriting and producing marketing materials for her new digital product, a mindful time-management application, but didn’t have the funds to do so.

Thanks to the support of the Santander Universities Survive and Revive Freelancer Scheme, I will be able to support Katia’s business. Katia will be able to accelerate her market entry process, and even said herself that “working with a professional copywriter will help us refine our marketing message, which in turn will help us build a stronger connection with our target users.” I’m so happy to be able to support a female-owned startup business and I look forward to working with Katia on her exciting new project.


We want to again congratulate the successful graduates who can put their winning funds towards projects that can boost their role as freelancers. 

You can find out about opportunities to support students on the University website to ensure all students at Portsmouth have the resources they need to thrive.

Thomas Byrne

BA (Hons) Film and Television Production Graduate

The thing with filmmaking is that it’s not something you can really do by yourself. Or at least, not without breaking out the sock puppets again – and that is behind me. So when a virus that spreads quite rapidly between people became a thing, a lot of that work came to a halt. This fund is going to go a long way to getting momentum on bigger projects, like creating more movies! 

Five lucky University of Portsmouth graduates have received £1,000 from Santander Universities to bolster their freelance businesses. Here, three of the successful graduates talk about their businesses and what this support means to them. 

Santander Universities Survive and Revive Freelancer Support

As part of the Santander Universities UK Survive & Revive Programme, 250 graduates were offered support for their freelance businesses, to help them bounce back after the drastic impact from COVID. Five University of Portsmouth recent graduates received £1,000 each to help them bankroll freelance commission projects for business clients. 

The students who benefited

My work focuses on promoting a holistic approach to ensure students feel safe and supported to fully engage with their learning experience.
Alya Harding, BA (Hons) International Development
This grant will allow me to expand my portfolio and support a female-owned startup business. I’m extremely grateful!
Mia McTigue-Rodriguez, BA (Hons) Creative and Media Writing
I’ve been spending some time collaborating with other creators to lay the groundwork for something bigger.
Thomas Byrne , BA (Hons) Film and Television Production