Exeter-based charity Reading List Foundation, in conjunction with Blackwell's, has reached the "major milestone" of providing scholarships to 16 students from lower-income households across England.
The charity helps Year 13 students about to start university by covering the cost of textbooks in their first year of study with a £250 scholarship, in the form of a smart card from Blackwell’s.
Donors are encouraged to fund a student’s reading list for the first year, giving them "invaluable financial and emotional breathing space". A number of the scholarships have been set-up with a personal link – donors nominating them for their old school, or a school in their local community, with some donors funding a whole scholarship, and others contributing smaller amounts that are bundled up.
Co-founder Alan Terry said: “We’re big on ‘micro-philanthropy’ – the idea that we can all be philanthropists; you don’t have to be a millionaire. We’re really pleased with how our first year has gone. This year’s students going to university are the first ever to face higher tuition fees but without the financial support of student grants – which have now been withdrawn even for students from lower-income households. In comparison many of us got a degree for free, without the burden of an average of £50,000 of debt. We can’t change this contrast, but we can make a real difference to students following in our footsteps.
"We’ve had the stories coming back from across England of the students who have won scholarships – students who are the first in their family to go to university, or who have achieved outstanding results while coping with family bereavement, or other really challenging personal circumstances. It’s truly inspiring. We are helping students studying at Oxford University, Bristol, LSE, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bournemouth, Swansea, Nottingham, Bath Spa, Reading and Kent.”
As a result of their first few months of fundraising, 16 scholarships were awarded this August to students who achieved outstanding A-level or IB results, at schools and colleges across England.
Over the course of the past year Blackwell’s has helped the charity with publicity as well as with the administration of the smart cards.
Tim Kilmartin, head of corporate, professional and institutional sales of Blackwell’s, said: “We’re delighted to be working with Reading List Foundation to facilitate the donation of their scholarships. I believe it’s a fantastic philanthropic scheme that will really catch on over the next few months. Most importantly, it ensures students have the textbooks they need to succeed in their studies despite the financial burden they face.”
The charity is now looking to generate donations for the next cycle of scholarships in 2017. “We have a very ambitious, but probably unrealistic, aim of having a scholarship in each state-funded Year 13 in England – it’s a long way off, but we’re taking the first steps,” Terry added.