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University students get active thanks to National Lottery funding

November 5, 2012

More than 46,000 university students have got involved in sport in the first year of Sport England’s Active Universities campaign.

With 40 funded projects across 40 universities, the results show students all across the country have been getting active including 2,341 students at Brighton University where organisers used fun sporting challenges in canteens and reception areas to get people involved. At Staffordshire University, 812 students joined after new ‘friendly’ leagues were set up with local Further Education colleges, while in 39 universities 2,424 students have taken up lacrosse.

Alternative sports such as paddleboarding and softball have been among the popular choices with students. Katherine Clarke from the Coventry University project, where korfball was among the sports on offer, said: “Generally the participants in alternative sports have been more committed and attended more regularly. We feel this is down to more committed participants of traditional sports already playing the sport in a more structured environment, such as the university sports clubs.”

Sport England is investing over £8 million of National Lottery funding over three years through Active Universities to get more students playing sport. It is part of the work to tackle the issue of drop-off in sports participation that sees many young people giving up sport in their late teens and early twenties.

“It’s fantastic that so many students are taking the opportunity to make sport a regular part of their lives,” said Mike Diaper, Sport England’s Director of Community Sport. “In the past too many students who didn't make it onto university teams had been lost to sport altogether. Young adults who are still playing sport when they leave university are likely to stick with it for life, so this is a good investment in the future.”

Recognising the strong tradition of high-level competitive sport within universities, Active Universities projects have been focusing on the need for more informal and social sporting opportunities.

“We want to leave a lasting sports legacy from the Games and projects like Active Universities will help us do that - encouraging young people to have a sporting habit for life,” said Hugh Robertson MP, Minister for Sport. “It has made a promising start and I am sure the Games will have motivated more students to get involved in sport over this coming year.”

Despite the encouraging numbers, Sport England is urging projects to do more to attract women students after the results showed that 60 per cent of participants were men.

Canterbury Christchurch University has bucked this trend with women making up 67 per cent of participants. Amy Jones, who’s studying American Studies at the university said: "The informal and relaxed atmosphere at the trysport sessions really helps as it makes the scheme more accessible to everyone. It wasn't a scary competitive session where everyone is judging you, which is great. I met lots of new people who I hadn't seen on campus before and it gave me the confidence to try new things. I'm now an ambassador for the scheme and volunteer each week to encourage others to get involved in the project.”

The first-year results for Active Universities was welcomed by Karen Rothery, Chief Executive of British Universities and Colleges Sport, who said: “These results are really encouraging, and show that a focused approach, with a real understanding of what students want and the creativity that student involvement brings to sport delivery can make a significant impact on the numbers taking part in sport, and therefore the impact of sport on the university experience.”

To find out more, visit the Active Universities webpage.

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