Published on 15 February 2023
For more than 20 years, Wendy Price, Head of Widening Access and Participation at the University of Sunderland, has worked tirelessly in encouraging and supporting disadvantaged students through university. These students have no family home to go to and no parents to rely on, talk to or ask for emotional or financial support.
Wendy’s extraordinary efforts have now been acknowledged with an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) award in the Queen’s Birthday 2022 Honours List ‘for services to Higher Education’.
Along with her family, she attended Windsor Castle today (Tuesday 14 February) where she received her OBE from King Charles.
Wendy said: “King Charles asked me about my job at the University and was particularly interested to know how students were supported during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was such a wonderful occasion and a great privilege to accept this award from King Charles. It meant so much to me to have my family there with me and it’s a memory we will all treasure for many years to come.”
Wendy added: “I’m delighted to receive this award which recognises not only my work supporting care experienced and estranged students, but also the University’s commitment to ensuring that higher education is accessible to everyone, regardless of their background or personal circumstances.
“I’m so fortunate to work with amazing colleagues who consistently go above and beyond to ensure our students receive the best possible support to thrive at university. To talk to King Charles about our University and my work was a great honour.”
Wendy was born in Gateshead and attended Biddick Comprehensive School (now Biddick Academy) in Washington and studied for her A-levels at Sunderland College.
Despite not knowing a great deal about how to access university – and with no one in her family ever having gone to university – Wendy decided to take the plunge and study a business degree and a post-graduate diploma in management at Northumbria.
Shortly after graduating, Wendy took on the role of PA to the Deputy Chief Executive at Tyneside Training and Enterprise Council. Within one year, she was made Training Coordinator, recruiting and training apprentices to work with local employers.
After two years, Wendy headed to London where she worked as Administration Manager for Toni & Guy’s International Academy, providing courses for hairdressers from around the world.
Three years later, feeling homesick for her native north-east, Wendy returned to Wearside and in 2000 joined the University of Sunderland as a Recruitment Officer.
It was during this role she realised her passion for supporting care experienced students and within three years, became Widening Participation Manager, working on externally funded projects to encourage under-represented groups to access university.
Wendy’s parents have fostered more than 40 children, so she was able to see first-hand some of the barriers and challenges they faced in accessing education. This experience made Wendy determined to improve the opportunities available for care experienced young people to access higher education.
In 2016, Wendy, with the help of colleagues, spearheaded the University’s award-winning We Care programme, which nurtures, develops and supports care experienced and estranged students through their university life.
As well as heading up the We Care team, Wendy is North East Regional Representative for the charity National Network for the Education of Care Leavers (NNECL) and a member of their National Strategy Group.
Wendy also studied an MBA at Sunderland’s Business School in 2007.
Wendy is Chair of the Board of Governors at Sunderland Virtual School, which provides personalised learning support to ensure that care experienced young people receive the best education and learning experiences to maximise their education outcomes.
Wendy’s expertise has been sought by a number of organisations, including the Royal Television Society, which runs a successful bursary scheme to support media students from challenged backgrounds.
Bursary manager at the Royal Television Society, Anne Dawson, said: “Wendy’s advice and insights have been invaluable to our own work dealing with young people from very challenging backgrounds.
“This work is not glamorous. People like Wendy do this from altruistic motives because helping another human being going through the trials of growing up without the support of a family is something they feel passionate about.”
Graeme Thompson MBE, Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sunderland, said: “I am so pleased that Wendy’s work has been recognised. Her commitment to encouraging and supporting students from disadvantaged backgrounds through university has brought Sunderland national acclaim for widening opportunity in higher education.
“She invests time to understand the barriers facing particular groups of prospective and current students and works with them in order to develop creative solutions and a very personalised approach. Our students and our teams are lucky she’s here.”
Wendy now lives in Washington with her husband Nathan and their two sons.