The Cowrie Scholarship Foundation (CSF), a new charitable foundation aiming to raise £500,000 to provide scholarships for disadvantaged Black British students, has secured partnerships with the University of Southampton, Queen Mary University London, The University of Liverpool, the University of Edinburgh and Newcastle University to transform student lives.
Each of the five partner universities – all members of the prestigious Russell Group of 24 leading UK universities – will cover the tuition fees and in some cases the maintenance for at least three students over a decade from 2021, with the Foundation covering maintenance and living costs through links with business and individual donors.
The CSF’s mission is to fund 100 disadvantaged Black British students through leading UK universities. The initial target is to raise £500,000 to start funding the first tranche of students and then continue to raise funds, eventually forming an ecosystem, and then to finance scholarships through endowments.
Professor Richard Oreffo, Professor of Musculoskeletal Science at the University of Southampton and Founder of the Foundation, a registered charity, said: “Access to university should not be limited by race or social class, but unfortunately this is not the case for all in our society. While many issues are at play in why more Black British students do not attend leading universities, the Cowrie Scholarship Foundation seeks to address a significant barrier: the financial cost of university education.”
Professor Mark E. Smith, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Southampton, said: “I am delighted that our University is partnering with the Cowrie Scholarship Foundation. As an institution, we are committed to fair access and participation in higher education and recognise the structural barriers which result in a lower proportion of Black UK students studying at Russell Group universities. More work is needed, not only to widen access, but also to ensure that students feel at home, achieve excellent results and progress to their chosen careers or postgraduate study. These scholarships will form part of our broader Widening Participation strategy.”
The issues around the participation of disadvantaged Black British students in higher education are complex. Progress in widening access and supporting student success must continue from early school years and, as indicated by the recent Russell Group Report Pathways for Potential, the rate of change concerning participation of Black students needs to improve. Issues around progression, application, attainment gap, well-being of disadvantaged students and expectations are also all factors.