Talented youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds are to be funded through engineering degrees with scholarships as part of a multi-million pound cross-industry package of support.
The Elite Engineering Programme (EEP), worth £6.5 million over the next five years, will encourage exceptional students from state schools who might otherwise be put off careers in engineering by high tuition fees. The EEP will also look to secure internships at leading engineering companies to help the students gain valuable hands-on experience.
Matthew Harrison, director of engineering and education at the Royal Academy of Engineering, which is delivering the programme, said: “Engineering enterprise is vital for economic and social well-being. The Elite Engineering Programme will help break down the barriers to becoming an engineer and search in all sectors of society for the best engineering talent to help maintain this country’s pre-eminence.” He said the EEP had backing worth “several millions of pounds” but did not reveal the level of scholarship funding that each student might expect to receive.
Anthony Purnell, visiting professor of engineering at Cambridge University and a founder of the EEP, said: “I’m concerned that our brightest young people could be put off a career in engineering by the cost of university education.
“That would be tragic. The Elite Engineering Programme was created to stop that happening.”
The EEP has also teamed up with Danish toymaker Lego, which will be providing selected state schools with its Mindstorms kits of programmable robots. The aim is to seed interest in engineering through competitions among students as young as 10 years old. Purnell said: “Lego has donated product on a very large scale.”
The EEP has been launched by the Helsington Foundation, a charitable trust set up to help disadvantaged youngsters to reach their full potential.