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New programme offers Black students chance for free degree study

Fifty Black UK-based students on lower incomes are being offered the opportunity to study for a degree for free through The Open University, via the Black Students Support Fund.

The Fund is part of a series of scholarships, worth more than £2.6 million in total, and is designed to open doors for people who might not otherwise be able to afford to study for an undergraduate degree.

Students don’t need to choose between working and studying

This is the first year the scholarship for Black students has been launched, but many have already experienced the wider benefits of OU study; such as Candace Louison, from Cardiff, who studied for her degree in Business Management while working full-time, impressing employers with her dedication and discipline.

She says she was the first in her immediate family to go to university and wishes it was more known that students don’t need to choose between higher education and working:

“If your family is not well off, there’s less urgency to pursue higher education. The urgency is bringing in income, you know, to multiply the household income so I think there should be a stress on the fact that you can do both.”

Flexible learning is the key and it can be spread over time

Students who successfully apply for the scholarship can study flexibly, including spreading their learning over more than three years if they wish, to fit in with family or existing work commitments.

Candace said: “I want students, especially from Black communities to know you can achieve something even if circumstances aren’t in your favour. Whether it be financially, mentally or just circumstances in general like where you live – there’s a chance to bypass that and achieve what you want.”

Professor Marcia Wilson, the OU’s Dean for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, said:

“The OU has 50 years’ experience providing high-quality, respected flexible study that incorporates online learning blended with one-to-one tutor support. This scholarship award specifically for Black students makes perfect sense to us so we can promote social justice and racial equity.”

Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick CBE, Ambassador for the Black Students Support Fund, said:

“For so many students literally every penny of available support counts towards the bigger goal of achieving an endorsed and completed university education.

“This incredibly generous Black Students Support Fund uniquely positions the OU in the top league of targeted grant assistance, and I’m honoured to champion the OU and the Fund because Education is still the most powerful weapon to build equity and opportunity and Black students now have an even better solid foundation of credit to create a future that serves society and their own curiosity.”

Eligibility criteria includes having less than £25,000 in annual income

The Black Students Support Fund covers OU undergraduate credit-bearing modules and qualifications, paying for the full tuition cost of a qualification, up to 120 credits each seasonal academic year and 360 credits in total.

Eligibility includes those who identify as Black, or as Mixed including Black heritage, and who have a personal annual income of less than £25,000.

The Open University’s Open Futures Fund, under which the Black Students Support Fund sits, is at the heart of the OU’s mission to make higher education accessible to all, championing equity and inclusion. Aimed at removing barriers to study, particularly amongst disadvantaged groups and those under-represented within the OU’s student body, the Fund provides life-changing scholarships, bursaries, and support for disabled veterans, carers and refugee communities, to realise their ambitions and start their study journey. The OU is offering a total of 132 fully funded degree places for the next academic year 2022/23.

Since 2014, the OU has awarded over 300 scholarships and over 1,000 bursaries, totalling over £5 million, thanks to the generosity of OU alumni, supporters, and friends.

For more information and full Terms & Conditions of the Black Students Support Fund, and to apply for one of the fifty places available, visit the application pages:

The Black Students Support Fund  https://www.open.ac.uk/courses/fees-and-funding/scholarship-for-black-students

New programme offers Black students chance for free degree study