Today’s Bristol students are tomorrow’s pioneers. They’ll go on to be innovators, entrepreneurs and influencers. Yet many students are still put off from applying to university because of social barriers or financial demands.
Together, donors have given more than £15 million to support bursaries, awards, scholarships and outreach programmes. You’ve helped hundreds of outstanding students break down barriers to education, excel in their studies and redraw the boundaries of human knowledge.
Last year, Abigail was one of 12 first-year students who received an Alumni Academic Achievement Award, in recognition of her outstanding talent. Your donations have funded 96 awards in the last eight years.
Abigail intends to use her award to make the most of her year abroad, when she will split her time between Siena and Nice. ‘Travel is a big priority for me, for language practice and to experience first-hand the cultures we study,’ she explains. ‘I’m going to use my prize money to explore Italy properly this summer and France next year. I’m incredibly excited about the challenge of an immersive language environment and independent work and life abroad. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I am looking forward to really immersing myself in the two cultures.’
The award also paid for Abigail’s subscriptions to Le Monde and La Repubblica which have proved enormously helpful for essays and compositions.
Abigail says receiving the award gave her an ‘unexpected confidence boost’ for the new academic year, and admits she feels flattered to have been recognised for her work. ‘When I left school, people warned me that university would feel less personal, as it’s a much bigger “pond”, but I’ve not found this to be the case. The University has noticed me doing well and my tutors certainly care when I’m not!’
Abigail has not decided on a career yet, though she admits she is ‘considering, among many things, a law conversion or the diplomatic service.’ She is about to start work experience in interpreting and, as a language ambassador for the University, has also been teaching in a local school.
Bristol had been Abigail’s first choice of university long before she applied. ‘I already loved the city so the University’s strong reputation made it an easy decision. I thought very highly of the Department of Modern Languages when I visited and the Woodland Road villas are my favourite part of campus.’
And she is not the first member of her family to study at Bristol: her mum, Andrea Richards (née Findlay), studied dentistry in the 1970s.
‘My mum has great stories from her Bristol days. She’d be the first to tell you that I know my own mind, but I’m sure that her speaking so fondly of her time here influenced my choice.’ ‘My mum’s always felt positively about alumni supporting the next generation of students. She donates to the University every month and it’s a happy coincidence that I’m one of the new generation benefiting from this.’
Since 2012, donations like yours have funded six PhD students each year – students carrying out pioneering research in areas like medicine, climate change, and social responsibility. Gilberto is studying civil society and Western peacebuilding through an analysis of post-war Sri Lanka.
Gilberto is one of few Westerners to study this conflict which, when compared to Iraq, Afghanistan and the post-Arab Spring, does not get the attention it arguably deserves. ‘There are many lessons to be learned from Sri Lanka’s postwar environment,’ explains Gilberto. ‘Western engagement and statebuilding around the world isn’t working how the West might want it to, and Western actors are becoming ever more apologetic in their peacebuilding efforts abroad. I hope my research has an impact on the way the West approaches situations similar to the one in Sri Lanka – contexts that might be labelled post-war, but not post-conflict.’
Bristol University was a natural first choice for Gilberto. ‘Many of the people who influenced me earlier in my university education had studied at Bristol’s Global Insecurities Centre, so I knew I wanted to work with particular supervisors here.’
Gilberto’s studentship includes course fees, a grant and research expenses. He’s also received a travel grant from the Alumni Foundation, as well as a grant to run a conference here in Bristol. ‘I would never have started my PhD without alumni funding. Fieldwork is expensive, especially when it takes place overseas. I’ve also been able to share my research at international conferences, which has proved incredibly rewarding. When I work with people in Sri Lanka, they put a huge amount of trust in me and in what I do. I feel a responsibility to them to keep my research going and to disseminate my findings as far as possible.’
After his PhD, Gilberto hopes to either stay in academia, or move into a non-governmental organisation to take a more hands-on approach to specific issues. For now though, he says: ‘The experience I’m having here in Bristol has opened doors and allowed me to broach some of the broad, interconnected questions about international, and intranational, conflict.’
Philanthropy is not just supporting students already at the University. It is also contributing towards local outreach, including the IntoUniversity Bristol East centre, where young people from disadvantaged backgrounds work with University staff and students to fulfil their academic potential.
More than 100 students, from some of the most deprived parts of the city, visit the IntoUniversity Bristol East centre every week. Rachel Reid, Centre Leader at IntoUniversity Bristol East, says: ‘Our partnership with the University has been really valuable in terms of making contacts with local schools and community groups. This support was vital to the successful set-up of our first centre in Bristol. We are able to inspire our young people with trips to the University and Bristol students also provide essential support as volunteers on our mentoring and academic support programmes.’
Sixteen-year-old Jaccob Khayre has been coming to the centre for three years. Jaccob has been working with the same mentor, Jon, since he started. ‘Whenever I need help, he shows me the easy way to do it. Like adding up fractions in Maths – now, I’m faster than my school teacher.’ Is there anything he would like to say to the people who have helped make this centre possible? ‘Everyone who helps and cares about IntoUniversity and the people who spend time here helping kids are the best.’
‘Since coming here, I’ve learned that by working harder you get to have something in the future,’ he says. And what would he like that future to hold? ‘I want to go to university to study engineering.’
In September 2014, Hayley received the Geoffrey Serth Memorial Award to help fund the fourth year of her Veterinary Science degree.
For Hayley, the choice of what to study was easy. ‘I’ve never wanted to do anything else,’ she says. Like many aspiring veterinarians, growing up with pets inspired her passion for caring for animals.
The decision to come to Bristol was just as easy. ‘I chose Bristol because when I came for my interview the students couldn’t have been more welcoming. I was waiting for my interview on my own and they came and sat and chatted to me.’
What does this award mean to her? ‘It meant a lot,’ she says. ‘I was really, really pleased to have been given this award. And my mum was really proud!’ ‘It’s paying for this year’s tuition fees which means that I’ll have less debt when I graduate.’ Had she not received this award, it would have been: ‘a lot more stressful, and harder for me to concentrate on my studies if I had to work to support myself.’
‘Supporting students is important and can really make a difference to whether someone can do a course or not. It makes it easier, and makes it possible for people to focus on their uni work. People who receive bursaries, like me, are very grateful.’