During his 15 years as Principal Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea has championed widening access to the University. As he prepares to step down, a scholarship initiative named in his honour will continue his work by giving promising students the opportunity to excel regardless of their circumstances. Edit finds out more about the O’Shea Global Scholars Initiative and how it is widening access to an Edinburgh education.
Professor O’Shea has had many successes and achievements over the years, and the University has benefited enormously from his leadership. He has secured the implementation of changes that have had a profound and life-changing effect on many of the students who study here.
An example of this is the expansion of financial support to help attract the very best students to Edinburgh, regardless of their background. The O’Shea Global Scholars Initiative will further Professor O’Shea’s work by increasing local and global access to an Edinburgh education, as well as opportunities to develop a global perspective once here.
Through the initiative students will be offered scholarships to study on campus, take online courses and benefit from an international experience, whether through internships, research, summer schools or exchange programmes.
Good grades don’t always guarantee a place at University. That’s why Edinburgh is dedicated to supporting bright students from low-income backgrounds through building on its already comprehensive scholarships programme.
For medical student Robbie Miller, being awarded a scholarship to study at Edinburgh set him on a path towards a bright future.
“Medicine was something I liked and thought I would enjoy a career in,” says Robbie. “I’m planning on becoming a GP. The medicine programme itself has been a highlight. I’m definitely lucky in that aspect. At university there’s a lot of very diverse people and you always make good friends. I think only one third of the people on my course are Scottish!”
He continues: “Without the scholarship I wouldn’t have come to university. It wouldn’t have been feasible for me. It’s a significant thing that will have repercussions for me, my family and future generations. It’s a ripple effect. A direct way you can impact and change a life.”
As well as increasing support for students to get in to university, Professor O’Shea has also been a strong believer in the benefits of enhancing studies with an international educational experience.
The Principal’s Go Abroad Fund is already supporting students in setting off on a dream adventure. In 2016, 287 students travelled to 73 countries on six continents to enjoy a six-to-eight week educational experience.
With additional support available through the O’Shea Global Scholars Initiative, even more students will be able to spend time abroad during their programme and gain a deeper understanding of the wider world.
Such experiences can give students the resilience, cultural sensitivity, language skills and drive to become truly global citizens.
Research from the British Council and Association of Graduate Recruiters shows that employers prioritise the ability to work collaboratively with people from diverse backgrounds in young graduates. Gaining these skills while studying is not only a rewarding personal experience but also a chance to improve career prospects.
Vali Constantin, Public Health scholar, is one of many Edinburgh students who have spent time abroad.
“I have now worked with a charity called Ashinaga twice,” explains Vali. “The first year I worked in Japan as a member of their student support team and I reapplied a year later to work on the same programme in Senegal. Ashinaga helps orphans and other financially disadvantaged students get to university through providing them with loans.”
Vali continues: “I feel the internships have been essential to make that connection between what I do in my degree and how it is applied in the wider world. The internship was hard work and a lot of pressure, but such a life-changing and interesting challenge and the best thing I’ve ever done.”
With the introduction of the O’Shea Global Scholars Initiative, future generations of students will be able to benefit from the University’s commitment to social and economic mobility. It’s a fitting legacy for a principal whose devotion to Edinburgh’s student population has been so clear during his time at the University.
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Main photo by iStock/mathisworks.