Case studies

E, a London resident who obtained 9 A or A* GCSE grades, and subsequently 3 A-grade A levels, wished to study Civil Engineering at Imperial College. Her parents, both in relatively low-paid employment, refused to support her if she went to university; in fact they refused to allow her to live at home unless she were working and contributing to the family income. The LEA however refused to pay her more than the lower 'living at home' grant value even if she had to move out of home. The Lady Finniston award to this candidate enabled her to bridge the gap between the cost of living at home and in expensive London rented accommodation and so keep her place at Imperial.

P was a refugee, who prior to starting university, had been alone in the UK for three years with her younger brother and sister; her mother was dead and her father had vanished during the war in their home country. The youngest child was in care, while the two eldest, whilst at school, relied entirely on Social Services for accommodation, living costs and any other support. However, on ceasing to be school students, they were expected to be entirely self-supporting, and since HE students are not entitled to any social service benefits during vacations and they had no family support, P had no safety net. Despite these difficulties and having to become fluent in a foreign language in a short space of time, P managed 3 B grades at A level and won a place on an MEng course at University College London. Her award helped supplement her student loan and gave her some degree of financial security in case of being unable to find or take up casual Saturday or vacation work.

M was a mature student from the Northeast who had left school at 16, and subsequently worked in a range of clerical jobs. She had been made redundant a number of times due to the recession but as a determined and good worker had always been able to find employment of some sort, however menial, within a short space of time. In her last job, M became increasingly interested in the technical work of the section for which she did clerical work and persuaded her employers to allow her to do a BTEC National Diploma in Engineering on day release. She was so successful in this that she decided to try to continue her studies at degree level and was awarded a place at the University of Newcastle at Northumbria. However by this time she was married with a one year old child and although the University had nursery facilities it did not take children of this age. M's Lady Finniston award enabled her to afford private child-minding facilities, which otherwise would have been out of reach of her student grant and her husband's low income, and so allowed her to attend the course.

These are but three of some 50 or so women who have been helped by a Lady Finniston award. Many are now successfully working in industry, others are studying for PhDs. Each year the WES interview panel is struck by the determination and courage of these women who wish to enter engineering against all the odds; with your help we can assist many more in the future.