SUPPORT: Some of the VC Fund winners
Life-changing, incredible and “the best news ever” were just some of the reactions of De Montfort University students who have been helped by this year’s VC Fund.
The Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship Fund saw 115 students share in a £55,000 fund supported by businesses, alumni, lecturers, staff and the VC himself Professor Dominic Shellard.
Money is given to students who apply for help with study materials, transport or financial support to help them at DMU. Judges chose 40 to receive £1,000 while 75 were given £200 funding.
At a special reception held at Trinity House today (23 April) for recipients and donors, Prof Shellard told how his own academic career was kick started after he applied for a £100 grant to help fund his postgraduate research.
He said: “Getting that letter, and that sense that somebody believed in me and I could actually have a responsibility to pay back, was incredible.”
He told students: “Please, take these grants as a massive vote of confidence in you by your university.”
Sam Doherty, of Quorn, is a mature student who is in her first year of a law degree. She works three 14-hour days in her job, then attends university classes and spends evenings doing her studies. She also looks after her husband who had a stroke aged just 37 and they have five children between them.
She said: “Everyone was saying, have you applied for the fund but I thought it was people who had been doing brilliantly academically. I couldn’t believe it when I heard I’d been given a scholarship. Ithas just made such an incredible difference to know that I don’t have to worry about money so much – and that the university was willing to help.”
Before she got help with £200 from the fund, English and Drama student Katie-Ann Mumby Cole, of Rutland, had to go without course books while her family went without Christmas and birthday presents to help her with her studies.
She and her family have had to cope with hardship and homelessness in the past few years and she has two jobs as well as her studies.
She said: “I was originally not going to apply for it because I didn’t want to be seen as a charity case, but my mum encouraged me to ask for help.
“I spent my 19th birthday sitting in my caravan crying thinking, “is this it? Have I hit rock bottom?” and I was determined to go to university and get my degree. It’s the little things that make a difference, for example I can buy costumes and go and see theatre performances now. It might not sound much but it really does make a difference. And it makes you feel better that you are not going to have to struggle.”
Marva Jean Cunningham-Riggan is a former Jamaican police officer who is now studying to be a social worker in Britain. Owing to family health problems she has had to cut short her course and return home to care for her mother and daughter in law.
Marva, who lives in Walsall and commutes to DMU, said: I’m determined I’m going to finish this course. I have had so many challenges and I am staying positive. Having this fund means I am able to focus on my studies. When I heard I had the scholarship I was so happy. It is the best news ever.
“When I was a police officer I saw the damage done by family break ups and as a social worker I hope to work to help people so it does not get to that stage.”
Alumni David Stevens, who donates to the VC Fund, said it was important to give back to the university community.
He said: “I think it’s very important that those who have experienced and gained from university are able to give something back to students and help them move forward. I am very grateful for my time at De Montfort University.”
Posted on Wednesday 1st May 2013