Stephen Hawking at a talk in the Union in 2017, one of his final public appearancesChris Williamson

The Cambridge Union has announced the launch of the Stephen Fry Scholarship programme, a five-year long scheme. Each year, 50 students will be granted a lifetime membership to the Union free of charge. President of the Union, Keir Bradwell, emphasises that the scheme is “the first scholarship programme in the history of the Cambridge Union”. 

To be awarded the scholarship, applicants must be studying either engineering, mathematics, natural sciences, economics, medicine, or veterinary medicine. Applications can be made using this form. Targeting STEM students, Keir Bradwell hopes to make the Union “every bit as much a natural home for STEM students as we are for humanities students”.

To further these efforts, the Union announced today (24/09), that Katalin Karikó will be speaking at the Society on the 1st of November, as this year’s Professor Hawking Fellow. Karikó, a biochemist, is best known for her pivotal work in the development of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. 


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The Professor Hawking Fellowship announcement shows the decision by the Hawking Fellowship Committee to honour a scientist who  has facilitated millions to be vaccinated worldwide in an effort to ease global lockdowns. The Union President refers to the fellowship as a recognition of a scientist “who, so visibly in-keeping with the late Professor Hawking’s spirit, has made such a profound contribution to human advancement”.

Both the Fellowship announcement and the Scholarship scheme reflect the Union’s efforts to make the Society more widely accessible. Stephen Fry, in discussing the Stephen Fry Scholarship programme, emphasises how “at a Cambridge Union event no one is more important than anyone else. […] The Union proves that social media is not where the action is when it comes to sharing ideas about everything from politics to pop, from comedy to conspiracy theories, and from science to sex.”