A rise in application numbers but more importantly a step towards our diversity & inclusion goals

If you’ve been keeping an eye on our social media platforms, you’ll know that last week was our 2023 application deadline with the whole Converge team on tenterhooks as we counted down to close.   

The results are now in, and while a number is just a number, it is also the symptom of what is going on in Scottish Universities and the response we have had to our outreach efforts.

We were all so delighted to see an 18% increase in overall applications compared to the same round in 2022 with all universities – including the Open University – represented in the applicants’ pool.

Given the current economic backdrop with high inflation, low business confidence and GDP expected to shrink, this year’s results are particularly meaningful. They show that a strong culture of enterprise exists within Scotland’s university sector, with all institutions being actively involved in this year’s Converge recruitment campaign. 

This result should resonate with our colleagues in the Scottish Government with many striving, just like us, to increase the economic and societal impact emerging from our education sector. 

We set ourselves a tough goal this year when we opened for entries in January and that was to create the most diverse and inclusive cohort in our 12-year history.  So, while a rise in application numbers makes us rightly happy and proud, what makes us even more delighted is the 28% increase in applications we received from ethnically diverse backgrounds. Moving in the right direction, but not as far as we hoped, we also received an 8% increase in applications from women. 

At Converge we live and breathe our inclusion and diversity values every day which is why our 2023 application drive aimed to change the narrative around the term ‘entrepreneur’ – a word that has negative connotations for lots of people, particularly women and impact-driven individuals. We truly believe that Scotland can be an entrepreneurial nation but, to achieve that, we need to think carefully about the words and language we use to make that happen. This is a long game but, rest assured, we won’t rest until we achieve gender parity.

As we prepare to go through each of the application with great care and respect, we are also preparing to turn down a huge number of aspiring founders. 

This is the nature of the game, right? After all, this is a competition and a high profile one.

However, to be truly inclusive we need to find the space, time and resources to help those who are not quite “Converge ready” to ensure that their entrepreneurial sparkle is not lost through the process. 

Since the very first edition of our entrepreneurial competition, we have taken great pride in providing bespoke feedback to all applicants, and this is no mean feat when you have so many trying to get in. Our university colleagues spend hours and hours going through the assigned applications and providing what we hope is constructive feedback to all. But this time this won’t be enough.

So, it is our promise to all of those who gave us a chance, who took that leap of faith and jumped into the unknown: we will be here for you, whether you succeed or not in this round of Converge, your efforts will not be for nothing. Your faith in us is our greatest gift and we will ‘pay’ you back.