The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have heard how scholarships have “transformed” the lives of Fife students at the University of St Andrews.
At a prestigious University fundraising dinner held at Middle Temple Hall, London, William and Kate heard speeches from Pamela Forbes, Kirkcaldy; and Kristofer Drummond, Kelty, who have both been awarded scholarships at St Andrews. Delivering his speech to the Anniversary Appeal Dinner – which was part of the University’s 600th celebrations and aimed to raise funds for scholarships – Kristofer revealed how growing up as a teenager in Kelty he had never considered going to university.
Sitting next to the Duchess of Cambridge at the top table in a dinner attended by more than 300 VIPs, he said: “Growing up I never really took much thought about university. I would always tell everyone that I wanted to be a millionaire archaeologist, only because my granddad showed me the Indiana Jones movies and I thought he was pretty cool.
“It wasn’t until my third year of high school that I became interested in the idea of going to university, when I had developed a keen interest for physics and maths. At that stage I wasn’t entirely sure whether I would want to study at St Andrews. As well as having a reputation for the best physics and mathematics department in Scotland and being joint second in the UK, where I’m from the University also had a reputation where its students were very different from the likes of me. So the university wouldn’t accept me because of my background.
“In my 5th year of high school, I was invited to participate in a summer school run by the Sutton Trust, an organisation which helps students with backgrounds similar to mine to experience what life is really like at university. I had a chance to talk to some of the lecturers and students attending St Andrews. During my time at the Sutton Trust I noticed something, there didn’t appear to be any students who looked down their nose at people. I soon realised the reputation that the University had back home was wrong. My time at the Sutton Trust was so good that, I decided St Andrews University was the uni for me!” Kristofer, a third year Theoretical Physics and Mathematics student at the University who is now excelling at his studies and has been on the Deans’ List to recognise academic excellence, revealed finances had been tight for the first two years of his degree, until he applied for a scholarship.
“The money situation got to the point where I would have to think carefully about what food I bought in case I didn’t have enough money to pay for my accommodation,” he said.
“And rather than doing something eventful over the summer holidays, instead I spent most of my time working two jobs to help me pay my accommodation fees. Fortunately, now the university has given me a scholarship; however I know better than most how important a scholarship can be for those who need it, how it can truly make a difference to a student’s life.” Thanking those who had made donations towards scholarships he added:
“Without the help from people like you, we could see potentially brilliant students struggle with university life and even drop out of further education.”
Kristofer spoke of another scholarship student at St Andrews, Sir James Black who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine for creating Beta Blockers to treat heart disease, and said he hoped, one day, that his scholarship would also enable him to make a difference.
Pamela Forbes, from Kirkcaldy, a fourth year Classical Studies student at the University, explained that her high school had a low progression rate into higher education.
“In my third year at high school, I was selected to participate in a project named Working Together To Improve which was run by the University of St Andrews. I was asked to write a 3000 word essay and do a PowerPoint presentation on a topic of my choice. We were given the opportunity to go to St Andrews (which I had also never visited before, even though it was so close to my home), and to chat to students and staff at the university whom I stayed in touch with. The project gave me an insight into university life as well as boosting my confidence in myself and my own academic skills.
“By completing the project, I then knew that I had the potential, and most importantly, I now had the drive and support in place to apply to competitive universities. I also knew from that point onwards that St Andrews was the university I wanted to attend!”
She said receiving a scholarship had allowed her to become a student ambassador and progress to become Vice Principal Ambassador for Widening Participation – helping prospective students from similar backgrounds to her own, come to St Andrews. She added: “With finance being one of my fears in applying to university, and the ease that came over my mind when I was granted a yearly scholarship, I know how important these donations can be in allowing great people to attend St Andrews. “My scholarship has definitely broken down barriers for me and I feel that investing in scholarships generates a full circle of benefits.
“You see great people gaining access to competitive universities where they may not have without your help, and these people often contribute to university life at a later date, as I have hopefully shown I have done.
“My decision to apply and go to St Andrews was the best decision I have ever made and I have never looked back.”
Last week’s dinner in London helped raise more than £350,000 for scholarships at St Andrews, helping to support many more students.
NOTE TO EDITORS:
For a full transcript of the speeches go to: http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/news/.
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Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews
Contact Fiona MacLeod on 01334 462108/ 0771 414 0559.
Ref: (scholarship speeches 12/11/11)
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