Helen Collins

Raising educational aspiration and providing students with a transformational experience remains the absolute backbone of LJMU, founded in its revolutionary roots in 1823.

Two members of staff who have gone to great efforts to keep students at the forefront of their academic endeavours are Dr Patricia Jolliffe and Helen Collins from Liverpool Business School. Together they played pivotal roles in the establishment of a community-based research project REAP, the Roma Education Aspiration Project (REAP).

It was developed with partners in response to an observed need within the growing Roma community of Liverpool; young people and their families not aspiring to further and higher education and remaining in kin groups, often in precarious, low-skilled work.

Helen says: “REAP has shone a spotlight on the Roma community in Liverpool and just how widespread and pernicious discrimination of Roma is, discrimination that prevents many Roma reaching their potential in work and education.”

“While I have spent much of my career in academia, a few years working directly with newly arrived migrants showed me first-hand how prejudice impacts lives. The negative portrayal of Roma was so deeply entrenched, including among decision makers, such that it fed into the way Roma were treated. For me, challenging these negative stereotypes formed the foundation for REAP.”

– Helen Collins

Both Patricia and Helen continue to play an active role in REAP and wider community support, including hosting education and employability events, alongside students at the business school, to offer opportunities for people from the Roma community to visit the LJMU campus, to discover education routes through the university and to gain practical help such as CV writing.

One highlight to date for Patricia and Helen was in 2022 when HR management student Alexandra graduated. She is believed to be the first person from the Roma community to attend university at LJMU.

She is now one of the role models and mentors in Liverpool’s Roma community with REAP, using her own experience to give others a sense of worth, and conducting outreach research for the university.