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UCL Annual Scholarships and Bursaries Reception 2016

By ucyow3c, on 5 February 2016

Written by Bronwen Butler, Geography (International programme) BA.

To kick off philanthropy month on February 1st UCL held its annual Scholarships and Bursaries Reception. The event has gone from strength to strength each year; from a tiny affair which Provost Michael Arthur jokingly said “could have been held in a broom cupboard” to a vibrant event to which over 500 people are invited to celebrate UCL, the generosity of its donors and the importance of philanthropy.

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Image: (left – right): Professor Geraint Rees, Provost Michael Arthur, Naimeh Masumy, Janie Gammans, Maureen Amar, Richard Jenkins

President and Provost Professor Michael Arthur opened the event with a warm welcome to all the donors, staff and recipients in attendance. He discussed the importance of the UCL philanthropic Campaign and the university’s achievement as one of the top universities at fundraising in the UK this year. He briefly looked to UCL’s future developments before introducing the first student speaker Naimeh Masumy.

Naimeh Masumy is a full time LLM Law Student at UCL, originally from Iran. She is an ambitious young woman who has clearly battled against the odds to be here. Naimeh is a student with a bright future in the energy law sector but she is one of many people who simply could not think about life at UCL without a scholarship:

 “I have to say I would not be here without the Ardalan Family Scholarship. In my whole life, I have come to realize that education is the most transcendent gift one can be given, and the Ardalan Scholarship gave me that gift, it allowed me to have a foot in the door of the future, a future I was once unable to envision”.

Maureen Amar and Richard Jenkins from the Amar-Franses and Foster Jenkins Trust then took to the stage. They support three postgraduate students at UCL. I was glad to see them, as this time last year, at the very same event, I remember I enjoyed speaking to and helping them with their decision while they were considering donating to UCL. Their speech, for me, was one of the highlights of the evening.

Their enthusiasm is inspiring, they fund 17 scholarships annually, 3 of which fund students in UCL’s Slade School of Art, Neuroscience and Engineering departments. They described the benefits of donating to UCL in an amusing way, even providing a very satirical cost-benefit-analysis to try to persuade others to donate.

They are clearly very involved in, and passionate about, their donations and described how they “don’t consider it a cost but an investment… What better return than knowing you have contributed to someone’s future?”

Next up was another UCL student, Janie Gammans, a passionate first year BA Archaeology student and recipient of the Malcolm Grant Scholarship. Janie has experienced more misfortune than most but has channelled this into her studies with the help of her scholarship:

I am here because it is your money that has changed lives. Through growing up, my early childhood has been coloured by what one can only describe as great misfortune, UCL in particular has offered me a clean break…The day I received the Malcolm Grant Scholarship on the 25th of September 2015 was the day that all fears and apprehensions were eradicated and swept away”.

Her speech made everyone in the room stop and think. She described how of the 9 million young people aged 14-24 in the UK, approximately 30% are living in poverty, this is 2.7million young people. As Janie put so eloquently: Students should be students, they should be resolute in their studies without financial difficulty impeding what they aim for. But sadly that is the grotesque truth of what poverty and financial restrictions can do.”

Professor Geraint Rees, the Dean of UCL Life Sciences, concluded the speeches for the night by describing the need for donors and explaining that scholarships are just part of UCL’s aspiration to include everyone, providing the best education possible no matter what background students come from. Professor Rees highlighted the cost of studying at UCL with an average student leaving with around £60,000 in debt.

There is a great need, now more than ever, for scholarships and bursaries. Government cuts mean that maintenance grants for the poorest students will no longer be provided, pushing students further and further into debt, and as the Provost mentioned in his speech, postgraduate funding by the government has also been cut.

This night is a valuable chance for us students to express our gratitude for the awards that turn our lives around and help us to achieve a world-leading education without too much financial burden. Many students could not be where they are now without the generous donations of people like Maureen and Richard; the Scholarships and Bursaries Reception is a chance to celebrate the munificence of all those who donate to UCL.

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