Aston University has received a £120,000 commitment to help tackle the digital divide with a new scholarship scheme.
The donation is part of The Access Foundation’s new grant-making programme, which has recently awarded £269,000 to organisations across the UK. According to the Social Mobility Commission’s State of the Nation Report 2021, when the pandemic hit in March 2020 the poorest households were found to be excluded from the digital world.
Only 51% of UK households earning between £6,000 to £10,000 had home internet access, compared with 99% of households with an income of over £40,000. The Access Foundation Scholarships will benefit 24 UK Aston University students from 2022 to 2028, with each student receiving £5,000 over the duration of their degree.
Students with a household income of less than £25,000 will be able to apply for the funding. To be eligible they will have to hold a provisional offer of a place to study computer science, computer science with business or cybersecurity undergraduate degree courses. The first six scholarships will be awarded to students starting in September 2022.
Professor Jo Lumsden, head of Department of Computer Science at Aston University, said: “We are absolutely delighted to receive this grant from The Access Foundation. At Aston University, we are committed to providing opportunities to the most talented students to help them succeed in the exciting field of computer science and it is important to us that we break down access barriers to such success, especially those imposed by finance.
“The award from The Access Foundation will allow more students to enrol and learn with us; it will have such a profound impact on many young lives and, by extension, those around them. We look forward to working with The Access Foundation on this life-changing scholarship programme.”
The Access Foundation was set up in 2021 with a view to supporting organisations in the UK, Europe and Asia-Pacific countries who are focused on mitigating the digital divide through facilities and learning.
Piers McLeish, a trustee of The Access Foundation, commented: “It is a worrying situation that in an increasingly digital society so many people are being left behind. Digital access and skills are crucial to enable people to fully engage in today’s online world.
“It’s a key objective of The Access Foundation to address digital inequalities and help ensure that people from all backgrounds have the same opportunities regardless of their postcode and background. As such, we have prioritised our initial grant funding to support projects that are really making a difference and bridging the digital divide across the UK.”
Applications for the Aston University scholarships open on 24 May 2022.