Cambridge Prof to provide scholarships for disadvantaged students as a retirement gift

Professor Mary Beard was made Dame Commander in 2018 Credit: PA images

Cambridge Professor Mary Beard is to provide two scholarships for students from disadvantaged backgrounds to study at the university as a retirement gift.

The historian, who was made a Dame Commander in 2018, wants to help encourage more diversity among those studying the subject.

Professor Beard says she'll retire at the end of next year and says the gift is ‘payback’ for everything Classics has given her, as a student and an academic.

She said:

The £80,000 gift will pay the £10,000-a-year living costs of two undergraduates who are from both an under-represented minority ethnic group and a low-income home for the full duration of their degree course. Called the Joyce Reynolds Award in honour of one of her own tutors - it will will be available from the start of the 2021/22 academic year in October.

She described the award as a that the university and subject really did want people from more diverse backgrounds to study Classics.

She added that while she was under “no illusion that giving a couple of scholarships is the solution" it was an indicator that they are "serious about equality of opportunity"

“Classicists go on to get very good jobs. Our students are extremely smart, extremely motivated, intellectually able and flexible. They’re trained to think hard, to express themselves, to write well - qualities that a hell of a lot of employers are looking for. The idea that the only way of being certain of getting a good job is to take a professional, vocational qualification is just untrue.

The classicist isn't the first high-profile person to promote diversity at the university. UK Grime star Stormzy has been providing scholarships since 2018.