Over the next three years, the University Sport Activation Fund will invest more than £11.3 million of National Lottery funding to support the universities to get nearly 195,000 new students playing sport by offering them the chance to take up a new sport or continue playing a sport they used to play at school or college.
This work is part of Sport England’s wider aim to get more 14- to 25-year-olds playing sport every week and reduce the proportion dropping out of sport once they leave school. With almost two million students attending university in England – 1.2 million of them aged between 16- and 25-years-old – higher education is an important sector for Sport England to partner with to achieve this.
Sport England Director of Community Sport, Mike Diaper, said: “We want to get more people playing sport regularly and working with universities is one of the ways we are going to achieve this. They play a vital role in maintaining and growing a student’s love of sport by helping them to continue taking part once they have left school, or helping those less sporty discover a new sport.
“By investing in the 62 universities we’re helping students develop a lifelong sporting habit while they study.”
Currently just over half (52%) of higher education students take part in sport at least once a week. The funding will support all the projects to not only maintain this level of participation but also increase it by trialling new methods of getting students into sport and offering a wider variety of opportunities to keep them playing sport. The projects will focus especially on those that do not currently play, and help tackle the issue of many young people giving up sport in their late teens and early twenties.
Sport England’s insight shows that students who take part in sport while at university are more likely to continue playing throughout their lives. The Active People Survey shows that individuals who have obtained a degree are likely take part in more sport per week than the general population.
Sport can also contribute to the overall student experience while at university, with 35 per cent of students stating that sport was part of their decision to choose a specific university. It can also support a university’s wider objective of keeping students and help enhance their employability after university by providing the opportunities to be social, gain extra skills through volunteering or gaining additional qualifications.
Paul Clark, Universities UK Director of Policy, said: ‘Sport, for all levels of ability and interest, is playing an increasingly important role in university life. Evidence shows that participation in sport not only helps fitness levels, but also deals with stress, and most importantly, helps students feel engaged with their university community, and therefore more likely to stay and complete their studies successfully. The University Sport Activation Fund plays a critical role in opening up sporting opportunities to a wider range of students, so that as many as possible can benefit.’
The University Sport Activation Fund builds on Sport England’s previous funding of universities through the Active Universities fund. In 2011, 41 projects were awarded a share of £8 million of National Lottery funding to encourage students to try new sports and continue playing throughout their time at university.
The highly successful Active Universities programme has delivered a 2 per cent rise in the number of students playing sport regularly at the universities that received funding and achieved 130 per cent of its target, totalling 160,000 new people playing sport.
Karen Rothery, Chief Executive of British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS), said: “I am delighted that the benefits of the University Sport Activation Fund will now be extended to eight new member universities, and wish them every success with their projects.
“Universities have really risen to the challenge to increase sport participation, firstly through Active Universities, and now through the University Sport Activation Fund. We at BUCS are delighted that our work with Sport England over the past five years has resulted in such a success story, and are confident that we will continue to enhance the student experience through sport in many creative ways throughout the life of the University Sport Activation Fund delivery.”
By investing in higher education sport, Sport England hopes to capitalise on the benefits sport can offer students, and help them develop a lifelong sporting habit.