Bilal’s story is one of perseverance, dedication, and resilience in the face of numerous challenges.
Born in Pakistan, Bilal moved to Italy before finally settling in the UK at the age of 16. Despite the challenges of moving to a new country, his passion for education and success was evident from the start. In a remarkable display of academic prowess, he completed his GCSEs in just one year, whilst learning English at the same time. He then went on to take a gap year during which he was able to gain valuable work experience within healthcare, to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor.
Bilal’s journey has been far from easy, however. As an individual from an underrepresented background, he has faced numerous obstacles that would have deterred many from pursuing their dreams. But Bilal’s determination to succeed was unrelenting, and he secured a place at the University of Southampton, his first choice, to study medicine.
Since joining the University, Bilal credits his success to the Ignite Programme, which has provided him with career guidance, financial support and interpersonal skills that are essential for succeeding in life. Through Ignite, he has formed close relationships with students in higher years who have gone through similar experiences and can offer mentorship. Being a part of the Ignite Programme has developed Bilal’s confidence and, as a result, he has raised his career aspirations even higher. He is hoping to become a cardiothoracic surgeon and has already begun to build his CV by participating in surgical society events.
For many students from disadvantaged or underrepresented backgrounds, financial pressures mean the chance to participate in a study abroad programme is nothing more than a dream. But for Bilal, this dream became a reality when he was fully funded through the Ignite Programme to participate in a five-day field trip to Amsterdam in 2022. With the financial burden lifted, Bilal could focus on the amazing experiences that awaited him instead of worrying about how he would afford them. Ignite’s generosity made the trip possible, covering everything from travel expenses to pocket money to spend in Amsterdam. Bilal’s journey to Amsterdam was more than just a physical one – it was a journey of growth, learning, and self-discovery.
Experiences and opportunities like this simply wouldn’t be possible for some of our students, without the generosity of our donors. Thanks to your support, Bilal was able to make unforgettable memories that will stay with him for a lifetime.
The Ignite Programme’s ethos is that every student should have access to the resources and support they need to succeed, regardless of their background or circumstances. Bilal’s story is a testament to the transformative power of opportunity and education, as well as the vital role that programmes like Ignite play in supporting students’ success. We are honoured to have been a part of his journey and look forward to seeing him achieve his dreams.
Being a student in the UK can be a rewarding and exciting experience, but it also comes with its fair share of challenges. One of the most pressing issues facing students today is the cost of living, which can have a significant impact on their ability to make the most of their time at university.
With rising rents, and a host of other economic pressures, students are struggling to make ends meet, which could have far-reaching implications for the future of higher education in the country.
A recent survey conducted by The Sutton Trust revealed that students are struggling to cope with the rising cost of living. 63% of the students surveyed reported spending less on food and essentials, with 28% of them skipping meals to save on food costs. Moreover, rent has increased for many, making it hard to afford their accommodations. As a result, 47% of the students have reduced or stopped socialising with friends to save money on rent and bills.
Students are increasingly relying on their families for financial support; however, this option is not equally available for everyone. The research found that working-class students were less likely to receive support from their parents or other family members. Joining societies and clubs is also becoming difficult for some due to high fees, which has led to a decline in their participation. These findings show that the rising cost of living is affecting students’ wellbeing and opportunities. Unfortunately, these national figures are mirrored at the University of Southampton, where we want to ensure that everyone can access essential services and participate in societies and clubs, irrespective of their financial circumstances.
In January, Southampton University Student’s Union (SUSU) conducted a Cost-of-Living Survey which found that 72% are concerned about their ability to meet living costs. In order to manage their finances, over 50% of students here are skipping meals and cutting back on food to cope with rising bills.
Thanks to your generosity, we have been able to provide vital financial and pastoral support to students from underrepresented backgrounds through the Ignite programme. Providing students with financial support they can rely on right from the start of their studies means they have financial certainty whilst at University and can focus on making the most of all the opportunities here at Southampton, helping them to achieve their academic goals and secure a brighter future.
In addition to long-standing initiatives like the Ignite Programme, the University has established The Student Hub, which is accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Whilst Ignite is a targeted programme focussed on helping care leavers and marginalised groups, The Student Hub will be the first point of contact for all students with questions relating to fees, financial support, accommodation, wellbeing, disability, careers, and course administration. The University has worked hard to ensure that the Student Hub is there for students when and where they need support. Those who need it can speak to an advisor instantly via online chat, by email, by phone, or – critically – in-person.
As we look ahead, we remain committed to expanding the number of places we can offer next academic year, to ensure that even more students have access to the resources and support they need to succeed. The need across our campus is great. Application numbers far outstrip places on the Ignite Programme – in 22/23 we received 108 applications from individuals meeting the eligibility criteria but were only able to offer 30 places.
In response to the rising cost of living, our hope is to be able take on our largest ever cohort next academic year, increasing places from 30 to 60. The Ignite Programme is entirely funded by donations and thanks to your generosity, this hope is a real possibility. Once again, thank you for your support, and we look forward to continuing our vital work together.