New scholarship for Black British students pursuing an undergraduate degree


We are proud to announce an exciting new partnership with The Cowrie Scholarship Foundation to offer talented Black British students funding to undertake a three-year undergraduate degree programme at SOAS. The Cowrie Scholarship will be awarded to one incoming undergraduate student every three years starting from this 2022-23 academic year.    

This year the inaugural Cowrie Scholarship was awarded to Remaya Robinson-Beckford. The Cowrie Scholarship Foundation, founded by Professor Richard OC Oreffo, was set up to facilitate access to higher education for economically disadvantaged Black British students in the UK, who remain under-represented at many UK universities.  While finances are not the only obstacle facing black students in UK HEI, they are a major concern for many. The Foundation aims to support 100 British Black students through university education over the next decade. This year SOAS became one of the Foundation’s newest University partners. 

Professor Richard OC Oreffo said: 

“Education has the power to transform lives, not only for the students but for their families, the wider community and indeed the world. We are delighted; SOAS will be part of The Cowrie Scholarship Foundation providing an opportunity for socio-economically disadvantaged Black British students to enter higher education, lives will change. The Cowrie Scholarship Foundation aims to provide more than just money and will offer mentorship, role models, and resilience programmes for the students who benefit from scholarships to make the most of the opportunity.” 

This exciting new partnership was initiated by the Ebony Initiative (EI) which was launched in 2020 to encourage the success of black students and advance decolonized knowledge production at SOAS.  The EI aims to nurture and support Black students from Africa and Afro-diasporic communities to pursue postgraduate education and research careers.  The programme takes a multi-pronged approach which includes research skills development, fostering community and mentorship, and funding support and guidance.  

The EI was designed and founded by Dr. Althea-Maria Rivas, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Development Studies, who has extensive experience working with racial and social justice research, and Black and global majority students and equality initiatives in the UK higher education sector.   

Dr. Althea-Maria Rivas said: 

“The Ebony Initiative has been extremely successful since its inception. A big part of the EI work over the last two years has been trying to create more funding opportunities for black students. We are thrilled that the partnership with The Cowrie Scholarship Foundation has taken shape. It is really important for the Ebony Initiative to be able to connect with, work together and support people and organizations within the community that are trying to achieve similar goals. Often it is grassroots focused initiatives by individuals who are dedicated to change that really make a difference and led to transformative shifts. This Cowrie Scholarship Foundation’s work is a wonderful example of that.” 

Shona Aitken, Head of Advancement at SOAS said: 

“This is the first time SOAS has partnered with The Cowrie Scholarship Foundation and we are excited to develop this partnership and support Black British students through their higher education journey.”   

Ebony Initiative students
Ebony Initiative students at 2022 summer workshop

The Cowrie Scholarship Foundation was set up to allow talented economically disadvantaged black students to attend UK universities. As part of their work, the Foundation partner with UK universities to cover tuition fees alongside businesses and donors to cover living and maintenance costs and provide a mentorship programme.  

The SOAS-Cowrie partnership enables funding for a first-year undergraduate student to support them throughout their studies. Cowrie funds £8,000 towards a stipend whilst SOAS will cover the cost of tuition fee for the entirety of a three-year degree in addition to a further £2,000 each year to support living costs.   

More information on the Ebony Initiative.  

More information on the Cowrie Scholarship Foundation.  

This post first appeared on SOAS’ website


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