Helping talented students to flourish

Anna Paul grew up in Greater Manchester, and took part in the Manchester Access Programme. She’s now in the final year of a Civil Engineering degree at Manchester, and is the recipient of a donor-funded Manchester Access Scholarship.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, she spoke to us about her experiences at Manchester and the women who inspire her.

Share 'I think that Manchester alumni are amazing'. Read how gifts from graduates have supported Anna. Share on X 'Manchester is a great place to be a young woman'. Civil Engineering student Anna shares her story. Share on X Learn how the Manchester Access Programme helped Anna take up her place at Manchester. Share on X

I grew up in Greater Manchester, and did my A-levels at a sixth form college in Hulme.

I heard about the Manchester Access Programme from one of my cousins. I knew I wanted to go to university, so I looked out for the programme and signed up for it.

In my high school there was a board which showed ex-students’ names and the degree they’d gone on to achieve. I remember thinking that when I graduated, my name would be on that board too.

I always wanted to study Engineering because it’s a way of helping other people through your work. I’ve always liked the idea of using my skills to help communities develop. I chose Civil Engineering because it has a big influence on our environment – and it’s a mixture of creative and technical aspects.

My parents are from India, so they weren’t familiar with the UK education system – they didn’t know about the university application process, or things like UCAS. Because I wanted to go to university, I made sure I used all of the resources out there to help me.

The Manchester Access Programme

Manchester Access Programme was a great way to understand what it’s like to go to university. I was able to go to student experience days and speak to students from the School of Engineering. The programme helped to prepare me for higher education – and it helped me secure my place at Manchester too.

There are so many things I’ve enjoyed at Manchester. I’ve made a whole new set of friends, I’ve learnt a lot, I’ve been travelling. I’ve been able to develop into a more mature person.

I still live at home, but I didn’t want that to have an impact on my university experience. So I’ve been active in the student community – taking part in societies and joining committees. University is about education, but it’s also about finding your interests and making new friends.

A helping hand from donors

Receiving a Manchester Access Scholarship has been a great help. It allowed me to be financially independent, so I haven’t had to rely on my parents for money. It’s taught me to be responsible for my own money – and I’ve been careful to spend it wisely.

I think that Manchester alumni are amazing. As well as taking part in societies, I work part-time as a Student Fundraiser for the Division of Development and Alumni Relations. That means I’ve been able to speak to alumni first-hand, and learn about why they choose to support students.

I’ve spoken to so many alumni who really believe in the idea of supporting students and helping us complete our degrees without financial worry. In the future, once I’ve graduated, I hope I’ll be able to help another student too.

The women who inspire me

Manchester is a great place to be a young woman. There’s an amazing history of women’s suffrage and there are initiatives like the Reclaim the Night march too. It’s great to know that I’m amongst like-minded people.

The most inspiring woman I know is my mum. She works really hard to set a good example for me and my brother. She motivates me to work hard too, so that I can make her proud.

I’m also inspired by Greta Thunberg. She’s had a lot of criticism for doing what she’s doing – but she’s an ordinary person, trying hard to do something great for the world.

I’m reaching the end of my four years at Manchester now – I can’t believe how quickly it’s gone. I’ve been offered a graduate job, so later this year I’ll be moving away from home for the first time. I think I’m ready now!

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