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The inaugural six recipients of the scholarship.

The Sir Steve Smith Scholarships support students from disadvantaged backgrounds

A new scholarship scheme was set-up in honour of former Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Steve Smith, who retired in August 2020. The programme supports six students to attend the University of Exeter each year and targets applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds, progressing into undergraduate study at Exeter via one of our widening participation programmes.

The Sir Steve Smith Scholarships have been funded by University of Exeter alumni and friends. More than £1 million has been raised which will support each scholar with an award of £6,000 per year for the duration of their studies. The donations have funded a permanent endowment, which means the scholarships will be available in perpetuity for maximum impact.

The scholarships were established in honour of Sir Steve, a leader who steered Exeter for 18 years to become one of the UK’s fastest growing and rapidly rising research universities. Sir Steve was the first member of his family to attend university, and the scholarships will target talented students from backgrounds similar to his own to achieve their potential at Exeter and far into the future.

The inaugural six recipients of the scholarship (pictured) commenced their studies at Exeter in September 2021 and are undertaking degree programmes in Theology and Religion, Nursing, Law, Geography, Management and Marketing and Physics with Astrophysics. Now at the end of their first year of studies, they have been making the most of the opportunities available to them, thanks to the support of the scholarship.

Sir Steve Smith Scholar, Ryan, studying Geography at our Penryn campus says: “The Sir Steve Smith Scholarship has changed my experience of university life in a multitude of ways, allowing for opportunities I would not have been able to take otherwise; it has enabled me to move on from my job at Wetherspoons, I wanted the chance to diversify my skills and work experience and I successfully received a placement with Exeter’s Professional Pathways for International Trade with this mindset and gained a summer internship with Sassi Holford, a high fashion brand that aims to be carbon neutral by 2030. As a geographer interested in transitioning to the fashion industry after I graduate, it will be a fantastic opportunity to use my degree and learn more about something I am passionate about.

The scholarship has also allowed me to spend time volunteering as leader of a Scout section for 4 and 5 year olds. The new initiative will enable me to contribute towards helping the development of young children who have spent most of their lives in lockdown, towards their preliminary stages of developing essential life skills. Whilst volunteering, I will be gaining experience in working with children, to empower myself and other young people from disadvantaged communities.

Finally, I have been elected as Geography student representative to improve the quality of the student experience and relay back to the Students’ Union and University staff. I have also been elected president of the Geography Society for 2022/23 and hope to run for the position of Widening Participation Officer within the Student Union next year to build upon my experience of being on a Widening Participation Access Programme myself. As the first in my family to go to university, the prospect of progressing to higher education was always strange to me; when I was younger, it seemed like an impossible goal. I hope to inspire others to follow in my footsteps and realise their potential.

By awarding me the Sir Steve Smith Scholarship, your generosity has inspired me to help others and give back to the community, increasing my connections while allowing me to gain a social life which otherwise would have been time spent taking paid work. I am truly thankful to all those who donated and made it possible for me to have this opportunity.”

Date: 14 June 2022

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