£1.5m gift from Blackpool FC owner enables provision of new bursary for care leavers

A generous £1.5m gift from Blackpool FC owner and University of Manchester alumnus Simon Sadler has enabled the University to launch a new bursary for students leaving care.

Simon grew up in Blackpool, and was the first in his family to attend University. He is currently Chief Investment Officer of Segantii Capital Management, which he founded in 2007.

He is also the owner and chairman of his hometown football club, having purchased a 96% stake in Blackpool FC in 2019. The town also contains eight of England’s ten most deprived wards, and its share of children in local authority care is the highest in the country.

Over the next three years, the Sadler Bursary will provide an annual grant of £10,000 for 36 undergraduate care-leaver students, with particular priority being given to students from the North West of England – including Blackpool.

The bursary will offer students security for the duration of their degree, providing them with support to secure accommodation and enabling them to focus on their studies without any financial stresses. The £1.5m gift also includes new support for students from low-income households.

There is a ‘care ceiling’ which impedes those with a challenging start in life. Just 14% of care leavers progress to higher education in the UK, in contrast to 47% of students from state-funded schools - and just 90 young people who had spent more than a year in care before the age of 19 entered the UK’s top 32 Universities in 2021-22.

For those who do manage to reach university, care leaver students can face significant money worries as they lack family financial support - the estimated annual cost of living for a student is £14,542. They can also face homelessness during breaks outside term-time, and difficulties accessing private student rental accommodation due to a lack of people able to act as a guarantor.

“It is a true privilege to have these new bursaries named after me, which will give a helping hand to young people who have had particularly complicated starts to their lives,” said Simon.

“I also hope it inspires young people who may not have previously considered attending University to follow their dreams.”

“Manchester is one of the top Higher Education institutions in the country, and studying there was a transformative journey which provided me with a valuable and positive investment in my future. I hope that the bursary recipients have the same experience, and they go on to have long, successful careers in their chosen fields.’’

Simon and his wife Gillian are also supporting Cancer Research UK’s More Research, Less Cancer campaign with a gift to the CRUK National Cancer Biomarker Centre in Manchester. The Biomarker Centre is housed in the CRUK Manchester Institute, a partnership between The University of Manchester, CRUK and the Christie NHS Foundation Trust.

“I would personally like to thank Simon for this generous, life-changing programme of support for students leaving care, which will play a pivotal role in our mission to create a more inclusive and accessible academic environment,” said Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester.

“We are committed to ensuring that students from all backgrounds are able to fulfil their potential and succeed here at our University, and this new bursary is another tool in our arsenal to enable that to happen.”

Our University is committed to supporting care leavers and estranged students throughout their studies, and offers tailored support to these students. This includes various financial packages such as The Manchester Bursary, the Undergraduate Access Scholarship and the Cost of Living Support Fund - which are all generously supported by donors.

The Access & Success Fund also provides accommodation grants for care experienced and estranged students, ensuring they are not left without somewhere to go during the summer break.

Students are also provided with named contacts who help them to navigate and access university support services, assist with accommodation, finances and settling into university life, provide career guidance, put them in touch with other care experienced or estranged students, and provide a listening ear whenever they would like to speak to someone.

Care experienced and estranged students are also offered paid work at the University as a Student Ambassador, which is a great opportunity to access to flexible, paid, part-time work, meet other students and develop people skills. Ambassadors are also offered the chance to act as role models on the projects that we run with looked-after young people by talking about their experiences of education.

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