Intern Insight – Oliver Mattis

Oliver Mattis, First Year Management student at The University of Nottingham, Widening Participation Placement’s blog

This Easter I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from the university’s Widening Participation Placements team, presenting the opportunity to take part in a 3-week, full-time placement, with the option to apply for a variety of unique companies. In being a mature first year student, starting my degree at the age of 22, the Helena Kennedy Foundation instantly stood out to me. I have always believed that everyone, no matter where they come from or who they are, have the right to chance at education; an opportunity that the Helena Kennedy Foundation provides through providing bursaries to talented students from non-traditional backgrounds for over 20 years. The Foundation helps provide social justice through its focus on assisting over 2000 students, including students from impoverished backgrounds, with a history of physical and mental health conditions, refugee’s and many more.


My experience working as a Researcher for HKF has been one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences I have participated in whilst working in a professional environment. Working remotely and largely independently posed the opportunity for me to develop my organisational and research skills tremendously. Following my induction meeting with my Supervisor, Rashda, and HKF’s Director, Shahida, I was given instructions for my task over the course of the 3 weeks; the task was to compile a comprehensive list of all the university widening participation/access & inclusion teams across the country using a combination of research techniques, including internet/website research in addition to directly contacting the universities in order to find the most appropriate people’s contact details.


I had somewhat of an insight into what type of work I was getting into as my previous research experience had included research done for my first semester Managing Operations module, in which we were collecting data on companies and their overall impact on the environment and their sustainability contributions. Carrying out this work at university did give me a brief insight into what the Research task would be like and my experience of working for from home during the pandemic as a customer service representative did make me feel confident in approaching this work, nonetheless I had never really had to develop my own methods and experiment with my techniques quite as much as I had done during previous employment.


Through data found on the UCAS website, I discovered that there were over 300 universities and college throughout the country for me to collect data on. Initially feeling like a massive task, I decided to spend the first couple of days experimenting through trial and error to find the best techniques for maximum efficiency; familiarising myself with how other universities run their widening participation departments in addition to figuring out how much information I could find through their websites. Although these initial days weren’t the fastest in terms of collecting data, I did manage to draft a professional email that could be drafted to any of the universities general enquires departments or widening participation departments in order to find the right person (e.g. the head of department) so when the right person couldn’t be found on the website, I would send this approved email out. This email proved particularly useful as only about 1 in 6 universities had contact details of the correct person on the website, whilst 1 in 3 had at least the correct department’s email. Whilst it seemed perhaps a little bit frustrating that after thoroughly digging through over half the universities websites and not finding the contacts through there, it did motivate me to find ways to efficiently speed up my method by searching for common key terms + the university name on Google which allowed me to find the right people at a much faster rate; also taking advantage of the staff directory section of the websites. At the start of the second week, I was about a 3rd the way through, but with my updated technique I managed to complete the other 2/3rd’s by the beginning of the 3rd week; allowing me enough time to go back and add to missing parts of the list in addition to doing further research for the remainder of the final week.


In conclusion, working for the Helena Kennedy Foundation has helped me develop a multitude of skills to a point they had never been before, including my time management, organisational skills, independent working and research skills. Completing and participating in this work has felt even more rewarding as I am helping a cause that directly impacts and improves the lives of people like myself who are misrepresented in the education system. I would highly recommend any students to work for the Helena Kennedy Foundation if they get the chance! The people are lovely and are always there to support you when needed. It is an experience I will never forget.