Life changing scholarships: Hamza’s story

Hamza is a shining example of why access to university shouldn’t be restricted by economic background.

Share Over 800 students at Manchester receive an Undergraduate Access Scholarship Share on X We are the first university in the UK to make social responsibility a core goal Share on X Read Hamza’s story to find out about support for students from low income backgrounds Share on X


In Greater Manchester over a quarter of children are living in poverty and in many communities, most people don’t go on to higher education after finishing school. In Bury, for example, only 27% of pupils who receive free school meals progress to higher education. This is in stark contrast to wealthier parts of the country such as Westminster, where 51% do.

While entry rates to higher education for 18 year olds from the most disadvantaged areas of the country are at their highest ever, there is still a huge gap between rich and poor students that must be addressed. According to UCAS statistics, 18 year olds from the most affluent parts of the country are nearly six times more likely than their counterparts in the poorest areas to progress onto universities with the highest entry requirements.

For many students, especially those from low income backgrounds, the prospect of paying £9,000 a year is daunting.

The average student now graduates with £50,000 of debt, for the poorest students this amount increases to £57,000. Under the current system, it’s estimated that 73% of students will still be paying off their student loans in their 50s.

The idea of graduating with no guaranteed career afterwards and such large amounts of debt can be extremely off-putting for students from poorer backgrounds, especially if their families have little or no experience of borrowing.

In addition, the fact that maintenance grants were replaced with loans in 2015 makes coming to university even less attractive for many disadvantaged students.

What are we doing about this?

At Manchester, one of our three core goals is social responsibility. As part of this commitment, we are widening access to university for students who may not otherwise attend.

Right now, around a third of all our students come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Take Hamza for example. Hamza grew up in a low income area of Greater Manchester, and always believed that a university education was for other, more affluent people.

Despite being intelligent and having dreams of becoming a lawyer, preconceptions about university and the prospect of student debt put Hamza off applying.

“I considered going to university but was hesitant regarding the whole financial element. As well as that, being the first one in my family to go to university was another pressure I had to deal with.”

However, through his school, Hamza found out about and enrolled onto the Manchester Access Programme.

Manchester Access Programme (MAP)

MAP is targeted at talented students like Hamza, who are from low income households and live in Manchester. Designed to make university a more accessible place, the scheme involves numerous workshops that help students with their university applications, essay writing and other skills needed for completing a degree. MAP also provides the opportunity for participating students to visit our campus, meet academics and find out about university life in general.

These opportunities and workshops provide vital support for students who may be disadvantaged in not having a family member who has been to university, let alone completed a UCAS application.

After completing MAP, Hamza did well in his A Levels and was accepted onto a law degree at the University, which was a dream come true for him.

“It was startling how much I changed over the course of the programme; I had grown in confidence and independence, and that was all down to MAP.”

However, we understand that accessing university is not the end of struggles faced by students like Hamza. Providing support for students from low income backgrounds throughout their time at University is a priority for us, our alumni and friends.

Thanks to the generosity of donors, Hamza and more than 800 other students receive an Undergraduate Access Scholarship which provides financial support while at university.

In addition to this, students from households with yearly incomes under £25,000 are eligible for the Manchester Bursary.

“To say my scholarship “helped” is a vast understatement. My scholarship has meant the world to me. Having that extra financial support allows me not to worry about future debt, and allows me to think about the more important things in my life that happening now, as opposed to down the line. Things like textbooks (which cost a small fortune!) and commuting from my town into the city are only possible because of that financial support.”

With the help of donors, The University of Manchester offers eligible students one of the most generous support packages in the UK.

Impact on Hamza’s life

After 3 years at Manchester, Hamza is graduating this year with a degree in Law with Criminology, something that his parents and wider community are rightly proud of.

Thanks to financial support from donors and the University, in the first two years of his degree Hamza didn’t have to worry about taking on a part time job. This year to reduce his university debt, Hamza didn’t take out a maintenance loan and instead got a job as a student ambassador.

As a student ambassador, Hamza delivered presentations and workshops, talked to prospective students and managed groups of young students on residential trips. This role was perfect for Hamza who is now passionate about university education, allowing him to promote such an opportunity to students of all backgrounds.

Hamza also took part in the Global Graduate programme which is made possible thanks to generous donor funding. The programme provides students from low income backgrounds with the opportunity to go abroad, meet with alumni to hear about their career paths and to gain knowledge of international work environments. It also provided an excellent chance for these students to network with people working in fields they are interested in going into.

“The global graduates programme was an experience that I will not forget. The people I have met and places I have seen have truly altered my career outlook for the better.”

Future ambitions

Hamza is looking forward to life after graduation and is determined to make the most of his degree, hoping to work in an area of law that benefits others.

His next step is to complete a Legal Practice Course, but doesn’t want to take on more student debt. It’s therefore likely that he will take a year out to work and fund the course himself.

Hamza’s commitment to his degree, as well as to helping others is a shining example of the impact that the Manchester Access Programme and donations from alumni and friends can have on talented students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“University hasn’t just given me an education; it’s given me confidence in my abilities. For the first time in my life I feel excited for the future.

Thank you for making me realise that my potential to succeed is not limited to the money my parents earn, that it is instead determined by my ability to work hard and make use of opportunities that are available to me. Thank you for making this possible.”


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