The fund will pay for the recipients’ living costs for the entirety of their degree University of Cambridge

Professor Mary Beard’s new Joyce Reynolds Award will fund the living costs of two undergraduate students for the duration of their degree.

The two recipients of the gift, which amounts to £80,000 in total, will be from both under-represented minority ethnic backgrounds and low income households.

The award is named after one of Beard’s own Classics tutors. 

Professor Beard said in a press release that the “retirement present” is her “payback” to the subject for the “opportunit[ies]” it has given her and to build on the fact that “we [the Faculty] really do want people frozm more diverse backgrounds to study Classics.”

Beard, who has been teaching at the Classics faculty for nearly 40 years, will retire at the end of 2022, having studied Classics at Newnham herself, where she now holds a fellowship.

The gift, she said, is representative of the faculty’s commitment to diversifying the Classics cohorts at the University, and, although she acknowledged that progress had been made with the introduction of the four-year course, “you still walk around the Faculty and it looks - although not entirely - very white.”

Addressing her hopes for the award, she added: “I have no illusion that giving a couple of scholarships is the solution, but it’s a way of showing we’re serious about equality of opportunity. And if it makes the difference in someone choosing to study here that might otherwise not, if it makes inroads into any anxiety they might understandably have about financing their course, then it’s worth it.”


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In the 2019 admissions cycle, 26% of students of the three-year course, and 83% of the four-year course, were from state-educated backgrounds, while 14% and 22% respectively were from BAME backgrounds. 

Across the University, attempts at widening participation for students from disadvantaged and under-represented backgrounds include the Foundation Year, announced at the beginning of 2021, and increased use of UCAS adjustment. 

In 2020, more than 70% of students with confirmed places for the 2020-21 academic year were from state schools, and one in four from under-represented and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. 

Zaynab Ahmed, a third year Classics student at Newnham College, said: “I was lucky enough to attend a state grammar that offered Classics/Latin, but it isn’t something that’s taught in many state schools which means a lot of BAME students aren’t exposed to the subject and the opportunities it offers. That’s why the four-year course here is so important, with the preliminary year as a foundation, and this gift will hopefully mean more students from under-represented groups feel able to apply.”