National acclaim for inspiring student


University of Leeds student Natasha Pickard has won a national Social Mobility Award for achieving outstanding academic success while living with mental illness.

Natasha, who has just finished her second year studying Financial Mathematics, received the award from upReach, a charity that works with universities and employers to help disadvantaged students realise their potential and access employment.

Natasha has achieved impressive results while juggling part-time work and looking after a baby. She became a Laidlaw Scholar and presented her Laidlaw-funded research at an international conference.

She went on to secure a placement in the office of the University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor: Student Education.

After an interrupted school education, Natasha achieved good results and decided to enter Higher Education with the University of Leeds following the birth of her son Oscar.

“Since pursuing this degree, I have experienced a snowball effect of positive events,” said Natasha.

“I was so lucky to have an amazing university at which to study Mathematics that was local to me and my family.

“I became more self-aware and driven than ever before and I knew how to ask for support when I needed it. The support given at Leeds is amazing and has certainly helped me considerably.”

Natasha is an exceptional talent and her academic achievements clearly demonstrate her ability and reflect how hard she works.”

Professor Jeff Grabill, Deputy Vice Chancellor: Student Education

She gained access to the Plus Programme at Leeds which supports UK fee paying students  from backgrounds that are under-represented at university. 

There was also support provided by Disability Services at Leeds which navigates barriers for students, whatever their needs.

“I had amazing support from the Disability Services who appointed me a specialist mentor,” said Natasha. “They helped keep a check on my mental health and prevented me from suffering burnout.”

She was also grateful to the Lifelong Learning Centre for providing a quiet space to study and the opportunity to meet other students with family commitments.

Natasha added: “It has been wonderful to have support from upReach and to finally believe in myself and realise my full potential.

Natasha with her award


“Winning this award propels me towards the freedom of choice I hope to achieve for both me and my family as well as opening up further opportunities for me to make a positive impact on the world around me.”

Natasha was a finalist in the Excellence through Adversity category of the TargetJobs Undergraduate of the Year in 2022 and was subsequently offered an internship by sponsor Rolls Royce.

Professor Jeff Grabill, Deputy Vice Chancellor: Student Education at the University of Leeds, said: “Natasha is an exceptional talent and her academic achievements clearly demonstrate her ability and reflect how hard she works.
“I’ve been delighted to have Natasha as part of our Student Education team during the last year. Natasha reflects the best of what we do here at the University of Leeds. She has taken the opportunity to achieve her full potential, and she has thrived during her time with us.

“We want this for each and every one of our students.”

More information

For more information contact Jane Lewis by emailing or the