Glasgow Caledonian University - The Caledonian Club

What the judges said
The Education Award, Winner, 2016
  • The judges were struck by the commitment that GCU had made to developing a truly end-to-end solution, starting with working at nursery age, moving through primary and secondary and supporting young people into post education pathways.
  • Embedding the support of its programme delivery within schools has ensured that young people can access role models as well as continuing the development of the alumni themselves.
  • The programme demonstrates real innovation through its holistic engagement of not only young people but their parents, teachers and broader community, helping to deliver a solution for the real challenges that Glasgow faces.

11,000 students from some of Glasgow’s most deprived areas have had their aspirations boosted and prospects improved thanks to Glasgow Caledonian University’s Caledonian Club project.


Caledonian Club was set up by Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) in 2008 with five communities in areas of multiple deprivation in Glasgow, each area including a nursery, primary and secondary school. The Club aims to raise aspirations and improve low levels of transition to post-school education by working with children, parents and schools. 

The percentage of Scottish School leavers progressing to Higher Education sits at 36%; within Glasgow the overall progression rate is 28% and prior to Caledonian Club engagement the average for the Club’s five secondary schools in 2007/08 was 14.4%. 

Since its establishment in 2008 the Caledonian Club has worked with over 11,000 children and parents in areas characterised by high levels of poverty, unemployment, and lower than national average progression into further and higher education.  Caledonian Club partnerships start in nursery school, with children aged three, accompanied by their parents and teachers, and continues through to young adults leaving school at 16 or 17. The work of the Club is funded by GCU and financial sponsorship from several Trusts and corporate partners.

GCU wants to help break the cycle of deprivation.  Through its work with nursery, primary and secondary pupils, their families and communities, the university wants to raise aspirations and help develop key life skills that will help children reach their full potential.

Why they did it

Glasgow University has around 20,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the UK and overseas. It is made up of three schools: The Schools for Business & Society, Health & Life Science, and Engineering & Built Environment.

'Transforming lives through education’ is one of the university’s strategic goals. Glasgow prides itself on widening access to higher education for talented individuals regardless of their backgrounds, and the university aims to use its academic reputation for the benefit of the communities it serves in Scotland and internationally.

A taste of the future

All Caledonian Club schools are located in the most deprived postcodes in Scotland.

Through the Club’s S6 Shadowing project, over 700 senior school pupils from these areas have been given the chance to shadow a university subject of their choice, spending a day taking part in first year classes and meeting academic staff and students to give them first-hand experience of degree courses ahead of submitting their choice of application.  

Glasgow engages with around 100 members of school staff annually, consisting of head teachers, deputy head teachers, heads of year groups, class or subject specific teachers and support staff.

Donations from individuals and companies have enabled the Club to expand its activities, develop new programmes, and provide scholarships for pupils wishing to study at GCU.

Time donations

As well as financial donations, GCU students have invested their time. In 2014, 120 volunteered as student mentors and developed their own employability skills working in the Club.

The Caledonian Club’s management team reports upwards to the University’s Executive Board, horizontally to the school partners and sponsors and downwards to student mentors. 

As well as learning how to be good mentors, students are given training on working with vulnerable young people.

What the Chair of the Judging panel said:

“The judges were unanimous in their support for Glasgow Caledonian University as winners of the Education Award. Their commitment to work holistically with parents, young people, schools and the local community has seen them deliver a unique end to end programme which is driving real results in employability and education outcomes for the young people and their parents. There is much for corporates to learn from this approach, not the least in terms of how alumni from your programmes can become your greatest deliverers!” - Lucy Carver, Director – Bigger Picture, Sky

What GCU's Principal and Vice-Chancellor said:

“Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) is committed to delivering its social mission as a University for the Common Good, and widening access to Higher Education. A fundamental part of this activity is GCU’s Caledonian Club. This initiative has generated positive esteem for our University, and recent research has highlighted the impact it has had on over eleven thousand school children and nearly three thousand of their parents. Its work to raise aspirations and create opportunities for those from challenging backgrounds has made a positive difference to many lives, and is an example that other organisations can learn from in their engagement.” - Pamela Gillies CBE, Principal & Vice-Chancellor

Good for society and for business
  • The Caledonian Club has raised the aspirations of over 11,000 pupils and 3,000 parents/carers in 15 schools in some of Glasgow’s most deprived areas.
  • The average progression rates into higher education of participants increased following the programme from 14.4% in 2007/08 to 27.8% in 2014/15.
  • Caledonian Club has attracted almost £1 million in philanthropic and business investment to support expansion and innovation.
  • The project benefits students, who act as mentors on the programme, enhancing their employability skills and CVs.
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