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Donors giving students a life-changing opportunity

More than 2,200 scholarships have been funded by University alumni and other donors – and the figure is growing with each new intake.

As we approach the summer, our Alumni and Development team will be contacting alumni and other donors to encourage them to donate to our Footsteps Fund – and to help more students from disadvantaged backgrounds to enrol at Leeds this September.

For English and Film Studies student, Hannah Myers, the support of a donor helped her fulfil her dreams of studying for a degree, after her world was turned upside down.

Hannah talks about the day her whole world changed: “My dad has had health problems for as long as I can remember but in 2010 he had a stroke. It was a very sudden loss of mobility and speech; he was paralysed down his left side and was unable to work.”

Family life changed overnight. Hannah’s mum became a full-time carer for her husband, with the household relying on Disability Living Allowance as their main source of income.

“For me, it meant I had to look closely at my university choices,” says Hannah. “There was no way the family could support me to live away from home, so one obvious option was to stay at home, go to my local university and support myself with a part-time job.”

But Hannah had set her sights on Leeds, where the International Film Festival and Hyde Park Picture House would allow her to indulge her passion for movies. “I’ve loved film since I was a child,” she says. "It was while watching an Indiana Jones movie as a four-year-old that this passion was stirred.”

The support of a donor is now allowing Hannah to throw herself into her studies at Leeds, and rather than having to take paid work, to volunteer at the beautiful old cinema in the heart of the city’s student area.

She said: “When we got the email saying I would receive a scholarship, my mum cried. It meant so much to us. I wouldn’t have been able to come to Leeds without it.”

In every School and Faculty of the University there are young people just like Hannah, who are receiving this support. These gifts are helping to level the playing field for bright and able students who, through no fault of their own, face major obstacles to taking up a place at Leeds. These include:

  • Schools – The brightest young people may struggle to achieve the top A-level grades if they attend a school that is achieving below the national average at GCSE and has low numbers of students entering university
  • Money – The financial commitment can be daunting; tuition fees are now £9,250 a year, while the cost of travel, daily living and books have risen above inflation
  • Awareness – If no members of their family have been to university, even the most able student may question its value
  • Background – They may be from a home with a low household income; they might live in an area of low progression to Higher Education or have spent time in care or had their schooling interrupted; they could have responsibility for siblings or other relatives. 

But these are the very people who stand to gain the most from Higher Education – and a scholarship can be key to these students achieving as much as they can academically and making the most of their time here.

Our scholars are also able to take advantage of the Plus Programme, which provides targeted, on-course support to students from non-traditional backgrounds to help them make the transition to Higher Education. The Plus Programme creates a sense of belonging and helps them access additional support across the University.

And we know scholarships work. Our scholars consistently out-perform their peers when it comes to graduation – clear evidence of the way this targeted help is allowing the brightest young minds to overcome their disadvantages and to thrive at University.

Figures reveal:

  • of scholars who graduated in 2014, 87.5% did so with either a First or 2:1 – compared to 77.8% of students as a whole
  • in 2015, 90% of scholars achieved a First or 2:1, compared to 77.9% of students overall; and
  • in 2016, 79% of scholars achieved a First or 2:1, compared to 78.5% of students overall. 

The number of students we can support this way is limited only by the donations we receive. For every student who receives this support, there are another nine deserving young people for whom a scholarship could be the key that opens the door to a Leeds education.

These gifts can make a life-changing difference to our students.

As Hannah says: “If I ever meet my donor, I will just say ‘thank you’ over and over again. It will probably be quite embarrassing! But it’s an amazing thing for a stranger to do, to give me this support and to allow me to go off and live my dreams.

“It’s a wonderful gift, and I intend to make the very most of it during my time at Leeds. It’s allowing me to focus on my degree and getting the best results I possibly can. It’s the best gift you could give someone.”

See the Alumni campaigns website for more information about scholarships.

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