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Good morning, and welcome to Talis Insight Europe 2019.
I’m Alan Terry, Co-founder and Trustee of the Reading List Foundation, and Talis have invited us here to tell you a little about what we do. We are a relatively simple charity, and I’ll try to paint a picture of what we do, largely using three numbers……
All photos from unsplash Credit: Alexis Brown
We set up in 2015, and have a simple aim of helping exceptional students from lower-income households in England succeed at university, by the wonders of textbooks.
I mentioned that we set up in 2015, and it was primarily the abolition of maintenance grants in that year’s budget that was, for wont of a better word, our inspiration.
All photos from unsplash Credit: Tom Hermans
My day job is a market researcher, and I do quite a lot of work in Higher Education. As part of some work on Widening Participation I’d heard first hand how some students struggled to pay for books, or had cut back in other area to protect what they had available for books, and this was quantified for us in some research we kindly had done for us by YouthSight, which showed that 40% of lower-income students had had to cut back on Textbooks because of financial pressures, to which you could add all those who cut back on other things instead. In fact, in 2016 seven out of the top 10 non-London universities advised average living costs in excess of the maximum student grant available – so they were essentially saying lower-income students would be behind the eight ball from the start.
All photos from unsplash Credit: MD Duran
On top of the day-to-day pressures that students who don’t have the bank of Mum and Dad to support them face, we all know the headline figures they face in terms of debt on graduation. The figure of £57,000, from the Institute of Fiscal Studies is likely to be even higher now. So we were aware of the keen day to day financial pressures on students from lower-income households, and aware of the sizeable debt they would face on graduation. And in comparison…..
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There is our third number, a whopping £125 billion, which is our estimate, based on figures from IPSOS-MORI and the Office for National Statistics, of the present-day value of free tuition that people of my generation and above – I’m a slightly greying 50 year old - enjoyed.
So in short, we look to bridge this gap. By tapping into the goodwill that exists in older generations, to support fantastic young students following in our footsteps.
We are the Reading List Foundation, and we turn donations into textbooks, which isn’t magic, but it’s wonderful nonetheless.
We are driven by a belief that there is a need, that today’s students from lower-income households deserve support. But there are two other beliefs that run through what we do. Firstly, we try, where possible, to make donations personal and relevant – so we try to link donations to a local school or college, or the school the donor went to when they were younger. We have a donor who is a successful lawyer in the south east who supports a number of Scholarships in the Newcastle and Gateshead area where she grew up, another who supports a Scholarship for a student studying at their old university, Imperial College. We also give donors, within confidentiality considerations, a sense of the student they have supported, and there they are now studying. Secondly, we passionately believe in widening the perceived definition of the word ‘philanthropist’ – I think traditionally we associate it with the Bill Gates and J K Rowlings of the world, wonderful people giving millions of pounds to charitable causes, or alumni funding new buildings at universities and private schools. But we believe we can all be philanthropists, and many of our donors would not have dreamed of funding a Scholarship, until we planted the idea in their heads.
All photos from unsplash Credit: Leslie Holder
So our model is quite simple. Scholarships are awarded in the form of a book token once a student starts at university – I’m afraid I can’t help using that phrase even though now they’re delivered by email. We allocate Scholarships to a school or college, and they choose the student on that basis that they know their students better than we ever could. As to the definition of exceptional…. we allow the school to choose student either on the basis of absolute academic achievement – Three A stars and off to Oxbridge, or relative academic achievement while overcoming personal challenges, and often it’s these latter students that are the most inspirational, as you’ll see in a moment.
All photos from unsplash Credit: Gaelle Marcel
We have minimal overheads, which are covered, so essentially 100% of donations go straight to fund Scholarships. And while many of our donors fund whole Scholarships, we have many donors funding a Bookshelf Scholarship’ – so smaller donations that we bundle together to form one £250 Scholarship.
We’re supported by some great organisations, from IPSOS-MORI and YouthSight, who helped us with some initial research around the issue, with Blackwelll’s, who have supported us from the beginning, in terms of marketing and other forms of support, as well as John Smith’s, and also numerous Charitable Organisations such as the Garfield Weston Foundation.
All photos from unsplash Credit: Thought Catalog
As for the students we support, well, I keep using the word exceptional, and they are. From the young carer battling her culture’s gender stereotypes to study Chemical Engineering, to the student who held down part-time jobs to help support her mother who is in a care home with MS, and the female student who has competed in the Biology Olympiad and the Maths Olympiad, and earned a Youth STEMM Gold Award for working with others to inspire and support the next generation of STEMM students and professionals. They are inspirational.
And I think although we are a new and relatively innovative charity, I think we’ve struck a chord with donors. In our first year we awarded 16 Scholarships, in our second year around 60, last year around 90, and this year we are set to award close to 200.
We award Scholarships at over 150 schools and colleges across England, to students studying at a full range of universities. I hope you have a student studying with you at the moment.
The impact is pretty clear, with the 82% who said it’s had a bid difference not even taking account of the handful of students who have set it aside for their second year.
All photos from unsplash Credit: Maia Habegger
And the impact is more than financial – it can boost confidence, as well as mental health, through reducing financial worries.
All photos from unsplash Credit: Chuttersnap
But as well as telling a, hopefully, interesting story, we’d like to ask for you help. We’d like to fund a number of Conference Scholarships. In a minute we’ll show you a number you can text to donate, and any donations made by yourselves will be matched by Talis, and also matched by ourselves, so effectively trebled. And if you say yes to the Gift Aid text, it will be more than trebled. And as I said, we like to encourage donations to be personal and engaging, so we’d also like you to nominate a school or college to receive a Conference scholarship. We have a stand in the social area, so please stop by and nominate a state-funded post-16 school or college in England. At the end of the Conference we’ll pick out as many suggestions as we have funding for, and then we’ll plan to come back next year and tell you a little more about the students the Scholarships support.
So this is the number – to donate £5 just text TALIS001 to 70970. or if you’re feeling even more generous, text TALIS001 to 70191. As I say, all donations received will be matched by Talis as well as ourselves. I’d just like to leave you with short animation that tells our story in a slightly more pithy way than I’ve just done.
Click again to play video
All photos from unsplash Credit: Eliott Reyna
Talis Insight Europe 2019: The Reading List Foundation in 3 numbers
The Reading List Foundation…
…in 3 numbers
Talis Insight Europe 2019
We aim to help exceptional
students from lower-income
households in England
succeed at university…
…by awarding them a £250
Reading List Scholarship to pay for
their textbooks in their first year at
Of students from lower-income
households have had to cut
back on textbooks because of
Youthsight/Reading List Foundation research 2016; Base:
763 Undergraduates in England
Typical debt on graduation of
poorest 40% of students in
Source: Institute for Fiscal Studies, 5 July 2017
billionEstimated value of ‘free’ tuition
of graduates in England who
went to university in the pre-
Source: ONS statistics (2012), IPSOS/MORI data from
2016, assume fee ‘value’ of £27,000 per degree
WE LOOK TO BRIDGE THIS GAP
Students from lower-income households
aspiring to go to university deserve
greater financial support than they
Directing Scholarships to the school we
went to, or the community we live in,
makes donations more personal and
We can all be philanthropists – it’s not
the preserve of millionaires
WE PASSIONATELY BELIEVE
In the form of a Blackwell’s or John
Awarded to exceptional Year 13 students via
their school or college in England
Absolute achievement at A Level, or relative
achievement while overcoming personal
Overheads/admin costs are minimal,
and covered by a core grant
So 100% of donations go straight to
Donations from ‘Bookshelf Scholarships’
to individual Scholarships
*Less any fees charged by online giving platforms, c 4%
Plus numerous other
“Their quite exceptional resilience and work ethic are breathtaking!”
“Despite his difficult home circumstances he has always worked
incredibly hard, remained very cheerful, been supportive of friends
who have also been struggling, AND achieved amazing A-level
results (A*AAA). This prize will be hugely valued.”
“Her resilience, despite regular setbacks, has been truly phenomenal and
her ability to get up and go, at the worst points, has been inspirational.”
“She is an exceptionally able young woman, who has coped with
challenges in her home life to thrive at school. She is among the top 5 in
her 100-strong year group, despite having to hold down two part-time
jobs throughout her Sixth Form studies. She is an excellent role model for
her peers, and has guided many in the year below her too.”
THE STUDENTS, in the words of their teachers
THE SCHOLARSHIPS HAVE IMPACT:
Fairly big difference, 33%
A little difference, 9%
No real difference, 6%
No opinion, 3%
Difference Scholarship made to 1st year at university…
Source: Scholarship winners 2017 (base: 33)
IN THE WORDS OF THE STUDENTS
“I know that someone else is willing me to do well
which makes a big difference in a new atmosphere.”
“Receiving the Scholarship was a fantastic moment,
I was overwhelmed that I had been chosen. My Head
of Sixth Form was very encouraging and I feel she
gave me extra confidence by awarding the
Scholarship to me. I felt like my hard work to that
point was acknowledged and that gave me
motivation to work harder.”
“It gave me a bit of confidence when starting
University, as I was so nervous about it.”
We’d like to support Talis Insight
Europe 2019 Scholarships
Please nominate schools or colleges (see
our stand): State-funded, post-16 providers
We’ll pick out and announce the schools at end
Talis will match funds raised (up to £1,000)
And we’ll match funds raised (up to £1,000)
To donate £5, text
TALIS001 to 70970
Or to donate £10, text TALIS001 to 70191
Trustees: ALAN TERRY; ANDREW
DAVIDSON; CHRIS THAIN;
To donate £5,
Or to donate £10, text TALIS001 to