Khushna Sulaman-Butt was the first Darwen Aldridge Academy student to secure a place at Oxford University, where she read Fine Art at Ruskin College.

Reflecting on her time at the Academy and her success since Khushna said:

“When selecting my A-levels I realised that University was a realistic possibility because I had obtained top marks in a number of my GSCE subjects. Initially I selected all science ‘A’ levels as I thought that they would be the right ones to pursue a respectable and well-paid career. However at the start of the A2 academic year, I became true to myself and changed my A level choices. With the help and guidance of the academy, they helped tailor a bespoke educational programme to suit my needs and helped me to believe in myself.  With their encouragement I realised that I could aim for the best universities to study in an area that I was extremely passionate about, which ultimately led me to reading Fine Art at Oxford University.”

“I felt that the Academy encouraged me to stay true to myself, asked me what I wanted to get out of my experience at school. They helped me to fulfil my potential, realise my ambition and challenged me to develop my skills.”

“The transition from 6th form to Oxford University was smooth. I already had the opportunity to experience the academic and social atmosphere thanks to the Academy taking students on trips to Oxford and Cambridge. The Academy paid for a study/mock interview day to help prepare me for the Oxford interview, which was extremely valuable and beneficial as I put some of the learning from that day when I was invited to an interview at Oxford.”

“The biggest challenge that I experienced at Oxford was balancing all subjects that made up my first year at the Ruskin. University was very different to sixth-form due to the emphasis on independent learning. The concept and practice of creativity, social conscience, passion and determination were an integral part of developing my confidence throughout university life and now beyond.”

Khushna has been successfully selected from 2,580 entries by artists from around the world to be included in the National Portrait Gallery’s BP Portrait Award 2017, and at 21 years old is the youngest exhibitor. Completed whilst at Ruskin College, Khushna’s portrait, Society, will be on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London until September and will then join the touring exhibition around the UK until June 2018.

“The whole Aldridge ethos of helping young people to raise their aspirations was the starting point for me. It made me believe in myself and believe that I would be capable of achieving my dream of gaining a degree. I never imagined that me, a girl from Darwen, could have my work exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery. It feels surreal. I will always be grateful for what the Aldridge Foundation have given me. This is invaluable and I will be indebted to them for a lifetime.”