Northern Ireland news

Business leaders give disadvantaged students life-changing opportunity

Andrew Wilson of Allen & Overy, Michelle Edwards, QUB student, Conal Henry of Fibrus, Professor Ian Greer, QUB vice-chancellor and John Harkin from Alchemy Technology Services

A GROUP of 30 business leaders have joined together to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds fulfil their potential through a university education.

Members of the Bright Future Collective, which is led by Queen’s University Belfast, are local companies that will contribute £30,000 - £100,000 to the university's Pathway Opportunity Programme Bursary Fund.

The fund, which was set up in 2017 following a gift from Kilwaughter Minerals Ltd, has already made a huge difference to more than 400 students who accessed their place at Queen’s through the programme.

It provided them with financial support throughout their studies and removed any barriers to their success.

Seven companies have now joined the Bright Future Collective and their funding boost is helping to ensure education is accessible to all students, regardless of their background.

Michelle Edwards is a Queen’s Law student and a participant of the programme.

"University had always been a dream of mine but living in an area of socio-economic deprivation, I had always been doubtful of how that dream could be financially attainable," she said.

"Thanks to the Pathway Opportunity Programme and the generous bursary it provided me with, a weight was lifted off my shoulders.

"My first year of university was not filled with anxiety over my finances, allowing me to concentrate on my studies and enjoy my time at university.

"The experiences that I gained through the Pathway Opportunity Programme are ones that I will draw upon throughout my education, career and further afield."

Professor Ian Greer, QUB vice-chancellor, said the programme had "made a huge difference to hundreds of talented young people, who are least likely to attend higher education, because of their background".

"For many of these students, living expenses can become the major barrier to their success," he said.

"I am delighted to launch the Bright Future Collective and we are looking forward to engaging with many more local businesses as we progress with the initiative.

"The contribution of the collective will help us to create life changing opportunities for determined young students.

"The initiative is a shining example of what can be achieved when industry and higher education work together for the economic benefit of the region and beyond - the benefits to wider society are immeasurable."

Andrew Wilson, senior associate at Allen & Overy Belfast, which is supporting the programme, said they "are committed to helping young people reach their full potential".

"Not everyone has the same opportunities in life or the same access to education, but we believe that by working together, we can make a significant contribution and help to change the lives of young people," he said.

"We look forward to working with those students who could be under-represented and supporting them during their time at Queen’s University."

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