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Ulster University has announced 40 new Belfast Community Scholarships, removing the financial barriers that prevent many students from accessing higher education.

Thanks to the generosity of Founding Partner Ulster Garden Villages Limited and Lead Corporate Partners SHS Group and Aflac Northern Ireland, over the next five years, just over 100 students from our Belfast community, will benefit from a scholarship of between £2,000-£3,000 a year for each year of their degree (placement year excluded).  During the 2021/22 academic year, the university is working to launch a second scholarship programme that will support students from across Northern Ireland.

Opening in the Autumn, the new Belfast campus will be a catalyst for change in the city centre and these scholarships have been established to celebrate the opening, recognising its impact and the opportunities it presents to our local community.

The scholarships will remove financial barriers and support 40 students who meet an agreed set of criteria to study at Ulster University.

Educational underachievement in Northern Ireland’s most disadvantaged and challenged communities is well documented and highlighted as an area of significant, and indeed growing, concern.  Only 22.9% of school leavers in receipt of Free School Meals progress to higher education compared to 49% of school leavers not in receipt of Free School Meals*. 

These scholarships aim to address this inequality by supporting those students, who have faced challenges on their educational journey, with potential and ambition who may be put off going to university simply due to financial barriers. The impact of the pandemic on our most disadvantaged communities means such scholarships are needed more than ever to ensure progression to higher education and the life-changing opportunities this can bring to peoples’ lives. Without this support their talent, insight and potential as leaders, employers and problem solvers may never be seen and this inequality of progression to Higher Education will impact the diversity of NI’s workforce of the future. By driving diversity in the workforce these scholarships will be contributing to economic stability and growth.

As one of the top 5 UK universities for widening access to higher education and first in Northern Ireland, the University is renowned for its work in supporting students from low income and disadvantaged backgrounds. Currently, over 40% of Ulster’s 27,000 students present with widening access indicators such as financial hardship, background of care, health issues, or other barriers that complicate and compromise successful study.

Professor Paul Bartholomew, Vice-Chancellor, Ulster University, said:

“At Ulster University, we believe that higher education should be accessible to everyone. A university experience can immeasurably benefit our students and advance the social progress of our most disadvantaged communities, leading to a more inclusive, equitable and confident society.

“Building on the success of our work with schools to inspire young people to progress to higher education, we want to be instrumental in breaking the cycle of educational underachievement. Thanks to the generosity of Ulster Garden Villages, the SHS Group and Aflac Northern Ireland, these scholarships will help students from low income and disadvantaged backgrounds to access the qualifications, experience and skills that will enable them to fulfil their potential.”

Dr Tony Hopkins CBE, Chairman of the scholarships’ Founding Partner, Ulster Garden Villages Limited, commented:

“At Ulster Garden Villages Limited, we feel passionately that education can be a significant force for real change. We are delighted to be supporting the Belfast Community Scholarships and to be supporting young people from our local communities to avail of a life-changing education at Ulster University. We are always keen to invest in our young people and are proud to partner with Ulster University over the next decade to transform lives.”

Chris Lillie, Group HR Director, SHS Group said:

“The SHS Group are delighted to be supporting the Belfast Community Scholarships as we value diversity and understand the benefits it brings in terms of considering issues from different perspectives and finding innovative solutions to challenges.  We believe we have a responsibility to advocate for change, and by acting to reduce social inequality and improve access to education we are making good on our commitment to drive diversity in the future workforce.”

Keith Farley, Managing Director, Aflac Northern Ireland, said:

“Aflac Northern Ireland are proud to be a Lead Corporate Partner on the Ulster University Belfast Community Scholarships. By supporting five scholarships we know we are helping to make a difference to the lives of young people in Belfast. The opportunity to have a successful university experience is vital to the social progress of our most disadvantaged communities, and this will lead to a more diverse, fair and prosperous society.”

The scholarships are open to individuals with a permanent home address in BT1-17, BT29, BT36 and BT37 who are currently in their final year of an acceptable Level 3 qualification such as A-Levels, BTEC, HND or equivalent at an NI educational institution.

Applicants must be in receipt of an offer from UU and have confirmed UU as their first choice and be the first in their family to undertake an undergraduate degree. Full criteria is available online.

Applications close on 20th June 2021.

Visit the Community Scholarships website for more information.