Staffordshire University is launching a ground-breaking new degree to develop change-makers of the future and campaign for a fairer world.

The BA (Hons) Action on Poverty and Hardship degree has been developed in partnership with local and national community leaders and is currently recruiting students to start this September.

The course is uniquely centred around the importance of the lived experience of those who have faced hardship. Grounded in practical activism, students will engage in local change-making during their degree studies and work closely with people who have experienced poverty first-hand.

The course team worked with voluntary sector organisations from across the country to co-design the degree. Dr Katy Goldstraw explained: “As we move towards COVID recovery, the only way that we are going to find realistic solutions is to listen, hear, act and value the knowledge that comes from those who have experienced poverty themselves. Poverty is often analysed by academics but understanding how poverty actually feels and affects people is where solutions can be found.”

Course Leader Julie Tipping said: “The degree is committed to work-based learning which means that our students will be actively making an impact in the voluntary sector while they are with us. We want to create the change-makers of the future who will challenge assumptions and campaign for positive action.”

The new degree draws on the idea of finding what Baroness Ruth Lister describes as ‘voice-space’ for people with lived experience of poverty. The former Director of the Child Poverty Action Group will join Staffordshire University and guests from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Trussell Trust, APLE Collective, Re-Thinking Poverty and VOICES for a virtual panel discussion to officially launch the degree on Friday 23 July.

Poverty has risen statistically throughout the pandemic and the disproportionate impact on lower income populations has been highlighted by an increased reliance on foodbanks and Marcus Rashford’s high profile campaign against food poverty.

recent report by Staffordshire University and Citizens Advice Staffordshire North and Stoke-on-Trent also found that COVID-19 has exacerbated poverty and destitution in the region, with rising unemployment, inadequate benefits and low pay leading to increased demand for support from local charities and advice services.

Martin Coates, from the course teaching team, added: “This is a degree that might appeal to someone who has volunteered during the pandemic at a foodbank or has worked as a community support worker. Or it could be somebody who has been working in the voluntary sector from some time and would like to progress their career. We want to welcome community-minded people, of any age, who want to make a difference.”

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