Leeds to give £9,000 support for underprivileged students

Students from less privileged backgrounds will receive £9,000 during the first year of their studies at Leeds, thanks to a gift of £900,000 from Lord Laidlaw of Rothiemay.

His gift will provide scholarships of up to £6,000 to students from low-income backgrounds, who achieve A-level grades of at least ABB and a place at the University through its pioneering "Access to Leeds" scheme.  These scholarships will be in addition to bursaries given directly by the University, meaning these students will receive £9,000 in year one of their studies - the equivalent of their tuition fees from 2012.  In subsequent years of study, they will continue to receive a bursary of £3,000.

Access to Leeds works with local schools and communities to encourage young people to aim high.  Students from underprivileged backgrounds who successfully complete its educational support programme and a special assignment during their years 12 and 13 study, are given an admissions offer two A-level grades lower than the standard - for example ABB rather than AAA.

The programme has won national acclaim and has been adopted by other leading universities, its success demonstrated by the fact that Access to Leeds students who subsequently came to Leeds went on to achieve average grades at least as high as their classmates. From 2012, students who achieve ABB and win a place through the scheme are now eligible for enhanced financial support, thanks to Lord Laidlaw, himself a Leeds graduate.

After graduating in Economics, Scots-born Irvine Laidlaw studied for an MBA at Columbia University in the US before founding the Institute for International Research and growing it to become the world's leading provider of conference organisation, training and knowledge transfer. He has contributed to a number of good causes - primarily benefiting disadvantaged young people - notably in Scotland and South Africa, with gifts including £2m to the Prince's Trust and £2m to the Excelsior Academy in Newcastle.

Explaining his latest donation, Lord Laidlaw said: "I know how much I benefited from a university education. My time at Leeds was both enjoyable and the foundation stone of my subsequent career.  Access to Leeds is a wonderful scheme, giving young people an opportunity to fulfil their potential - and I am delighted to be able to offer financial support to those most needing it."

Professor Michael Arthur, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds, said: "We are very proud of Access to Leeds. In the new financial regime of higher education it is imperative that as a society we do as much as possible to encourage our brightest young people to aspire to higher education - regardless of their background. We are tremendously grateful to Lord Laidlaw for his gift which will help so many of our students to succeed in their studies."

Lord Laidlaw has committed to give a further £250,000 to support Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholarships for arts students. Under the scheme, undergraduates join major research projects during their summer holidays, mentored by leading academics.

The Leeds announcement coincides with the first ever Student Finance Day (Nov 14), which is aimed at ensuring that people realise that anyone can afford to go to university, despite changes to the funding regime from 2012. It is organised by the Independent Taskforce on Student Finance Information, headed by consumer champion Martin Lewis.

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