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OU Alum Sir David Harrison, one of Universities UK’s 100 faces campaign

Sir David Harrison, MBA alumnus and Honorary Graduate of The Open University has been named as part of a new campaign led by Universities UK, that promotes 100 faces who were the first in their family to attend higher education.

UUK’s ‘100 Faces campaign’ aims to champion and celebrate the positive impact of ‘first-in-the-family’ (FitF) graduates on the UK – including England footballer Beth Mead, Lord David Blunkett, Nobel Prize winner Sir Chris Pissarides and actor Amit Shah.

As part of the campaign, new research from Universities UK reveals the transformative impact of going to university on ambition (74%), with almost three quarters (73%) of FitF students agreeing their degree gave them the confidence to apply for jobs without feeling like an imposter.

Sir David was born in Tiger Bay, Cardiff. His Mum brought him back up to Newcastle shortly after, but he was then put up for adoption, subsequently growing up in a County Durham mining community.

After leaving Grammar School, a wide range of jobs led him into the construction industry when a serious football injury resulted in sales roles, eventually joining Hambro Life as a Sales Adviser in 1983.  He remained with the company, which became Allied Dunbar, for the next thirteen years, eventually becoming an Executive Sales Director.

Sensing there was a better way to deliver financial advice, which he attributes a large part to his MBA studies with The Open University, in 1996 he left and after a period of travelling in the USA, in 1997 he co-founded Positive Solutions, an Independent Financial Advisory (IFA) firm, using the internet and technology to dramatically change the industry value chain and cost model. It subsequently grew to be the largest IFA in the UK and was sold in 2002 for £163m. He stayed on after the sale, first as Chairman and later as a Non-Executive Director, until 2007 when he left to set up True Potential LLP.

Sir David has been a consistent champion of education and social mobility through his foundation, the Harrison Foundation. In 2017, Sir David set up the first Harrison Centre for Social Mobility to tackle some of the North East’s most entrenched social issues. Based at the Beacon of Light educational centre in Sunderland, the Centre works with partners across the UK and overseas to support young, disadvantaged people with the aim of helping them into work.

To date over one thousand young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, who had fallen out of the mainstream education system, have got their lives back on track at the Centre. Students learn core English and Maths skills as well as IT, business and enterprise. Ninety per cent of students at the Centre have achieved a formal qualification, 97% have increased digital skills and 100% have increased employability skills.

In 2022 four further centres were opened across the UK – including an online Harrison Centre in partnership with The Open University – and the first international Harrison Centre was created in Antigua and Barbuda. A further purpose-built Harrison Centre is about to be constructed in Newcastle.

With Sir David’s generous support, The Open University established the True Potential Centre for the Public Understanding of Finance (PUFin), a pioneering Centre of Excellence for research in the development of personal financial capabilities. The Centre works to improve the public understanding of personal finance through its research and the delivery of free modules providing individuals with the tools to make sound financial decisions. The modules have been accessed by hundreds of thousands of people to date who have improved their knowledge of personal finance and confidence when managing their money.

Commenting on his personal philosophy Sir David says:

I believe everyone needs a second or third chance, so if things don’t work out at school there should still be opportunities available – skills, education and creating confidence in an individual are the key.”

We are delighted that studying with The Open University has played such a pivotal role in Sir David’s life and has contributed to the support that he has been able to give so many others.

This article was originally published on OU news, read the original article.