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Durham University launches major scholarships initiative for low-income students as part of a record alumni donation

Bethany Henderson, scholarship student

@Durham_Uni have announced today that they have received a transformative donation from alumnus Charles Wilson and his partner Dr Rowena Olegario to launch the Durham Inspired – North East Scholarships programme which will support students coming from low-income backgrounds from the North East of England.

An endowment of £2M, including matching donations to the programme, will be used to inspire and support exceptional young minds from across the region to reach their full potential at Durham University, regardless of financial means. The Scholarships programme will support 20 students each year from low-income backgrounds from the North East, empowering and enabling local students to study for foundation, undergraduate, and/or masters level qualifications, whilst also pursuing vital leadership and development experiences offered at Durham.

Professor Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor and Warden of Durham University, says,

“This is an extraordinary and hugely welcome demonstration of support for the University’s mission from two very distinguished friends. Philanthropy is changing the game for students at Durham and this record donation will leave an indelible and enabling legacy for the benefit of generations to come.”

Bethany Henderson, 3rd Year English Literature scholarship student at Durham University from County Durham, says,

“These scholarships are such fantastic news for students who live in the North East and want to come to an amazing place like Durham but just don’t know how they can make it all work financially. As well as the money side of things, it’s such a confidence boost to know that our alumni have such a strong belief in our future.”

Charles Wilson says,

“Rowena and I are delighted to be supporting Durham University and the Durham Inspired campaign. Durham is making an incredible difference to the North East, the UK, and within the wider world; we are pleased that our support will assist the University’s objectives in each of these areas.” 

The Scholarships are part of a record £7.5M donation from Charles Wilson and partner Dr Rowena Olegario – the largest single donation in the University’s history – which will also establish the new Wilson Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship at Durham University Business School and endowment for the University’s Institute of Hazard Risk and Resilience (IHRR) – a research Institute co-founded by Wilson in 2004 which supports research and practice in areas related to global natural disasters.

The donation to launch the new Wilson Institute will provide entrepreneurs and leaders, especially in small and family businesses, with insightful and practical support to develop those businesses to full potential. The Institute will have a specific focus on servicing business leaders and business ideas in the local region at every stage of development: supporting ‘start-up, scale-up, and smart-up’ activities.

The donation towards the IHRR will increase the Institute’s ability to produce leading, front-line research which helps professionals around the world to protect, save, and recover thousands of vulnerable lives and communities every year. The donation will enable Durham University to promote, share, and network new research and best practices with industry leaders, policy makers, and practitioners working in areas related to natural hazards.

The overall donation will have a transformative impact on the future of a vast number of low-income students who will now have additional financial support to attend the University, the research that the Institute for Hazard, Risk and Resilience is able to conduct and disseminate, and a huge impact on entrepreneurs and small businesses by launching the Wilson Institute.

The University are also delighted to recognise the contribution this gift will make towards its wider Durham Inspired campaign, chaired by former Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Worldwide, Rob Senior, which seeks to support the next generation of inspiration and leadership through Durham University.

Rob Senior, Chair of the Durham Inspired campaign, says

“The Durham environment allows exceptional students and researchers to test drive their full potential in so many ways, but some need a little extra support to reach that potential. As one student put it recently: “we often have all of the fire, but not enough fuel”. This landmark donation is an inspiring response to those underlying needs and will help Durham to remain a truly world class institution.”

News of the donation was formally announced at a major Durham Inspired campaign event at Durham Castle on 20 Feb 2020 by contemporary Durham University graduates of Charles Wilson, William and Hilary Russell – the current Lord and Lady Mayor of London.

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