UCL News


UCL alumna selected as part of ‘100 faces’ campaign

15 April 2024

We’re joining Universities UK '100 Faces' campaign to celebrate the achievements of first-generation students. UCL alumna Sara Berkai has been selected to feature in the national campaign for her success.


Launching on Monday 15 April, a UCL alumna has been selected to feature in the ‘100 Faces’ campaign. The campaign showcases the stories and achievements of students who were the first to go to university in their family, called first-generation students.  

With celebrity ambassadors, including Amid Shah and Beth Mead, the campaign aims to celebrate the stories of first-generation students, and to call for better financial support for these students.  

Sara Berkai for 100 faces
Sara Berkai

Alumna, BSc Information Management for business  

Sara Berkai first attended UCL as part of a UCL Computer Science widening participation scheme for first-generation sixth form students in London. This first prompted her interest in attending an open day, where she went on to apply and be accepted to study on the IMB Programme. Initially attracted by the high employability rate and opportunities to work abroad, Sara had the opportunity to intern in Shanghai and Silicon Valley throughout her studies.  Sara also attended UCL’s extracurricular entrepreneurship programmes at BaseKX, UCL’s dedicated entrepreneurship hub in King’s Cross, managed by UCL Innovation & Enterprise. Here she also received business advice.

Since graduating from UCL, Sara took a break after graduation to consider her next move. She knew she did not want to follow the traditional employment route and even worked as a digital researcher at UCL. She did know she had a passion for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and sharing skills in countries such as Eritrea, where she was born. She asked EdTech companies for donations to help prepare workshops.  And even finding time to continue her studies by gaining an MSc in Child Development at the University of Oxford. 

Sara has since launched a social enterprise, Ambessa Play, that develops DIY toy kits to provide opportunities to children around the world to diversify the STEM pipeline. Alongside this, Sara has also received multiple awards for her contributions, including:  

How does UCL support first-generation students? 

Through UCL’s Transition Mentor Programme students are paired with a transition mentor, who are current second- or third-year students. The programme is particularly aimed at supporting students from UCL’s widening participation efforts, such as first-generation students. This support is valuable, as first generation students do not have a family member who can tell them what to expect and how to navigate things like the first term.     

UCL’s Student Support and Wellbeing service also provide pre-arrival support through the Student Adviser network, helping all first year's transition into university life at UCL, particularly first-generation students. They also deliver workshops to all international students via an International Student Support network.   In addition, UCL has an Access UCL scheme which helps make universities like UCL more accessible to underrepresented groups, like first generation students.

Entrepreneurship support 

UCL has a thriving entrepreneurial community creating startups that attract millions of pounds of investment, creating jobs and spearheading innovation that boosts the UK economy. In total, over 500 new student startups were started at UCL between 2014 and 2023. Collectively they have raised over £360 million in investment and currently employ over 2000 people [HEBCI 2014 – 2023].