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The Student Opportunities Fund.

The Student Opportunities Fund is our most successful fund ever allowing more of our alumni to help more of our students than through any other appeal. The impact of this shared endeavour is immense; so many donors have benefitted so many students for so many years.

For a growing number of our students, diligence, hard work and talent gets them to Durham but economic hardship curtails their opportunities once here.  Opportunities to play a full part in team sports; to develop extra-curricular skills to enrich their lives; to travel with their peers on field trips or exchanges; or simply to buy a new outfit for the all-important first-job interview are all beyond their limited means.  For them, the Student Opportunities Fund is an essential resource – ensuring they can enjoy a full Durham experience; take advantage of every opportunity, and in so doing, create lifelong memories and friendships.

Supporting Student Employability

The Fund has stayed true to its founding principles but as times change it’s adapted in response to student needs. Last year the SOF Student Employability Fund was launched to support our students in today’s increasingly competitive labour market.  Help with travel, clothing and subsistence ensure all students – regardless of their economic situation – can attend recruitment and employability development opportunities, such as internships, assessment centres and interviews. Donations to the Student Opportunities Fund help to break down barriers in a most practical, direct way, and students are provided with a response on their request for assistance within seven days of application.

The current loan burden and cost of living for students can make additional expenses particularly challenging. Matilda Medley's experience demonstrates how effective this initiative is. By accessing the Fund, Matilda was able to travel from Durham to Nottingham to attend a job interview.  She was successful and as a result, Matilda can look to the future with confidence and feels enormously grateful to the Funds donors., “I would like to thank you … for this contribution and [to] emphasise how much I cherish being given this financial aid, it has been a great support to me in the final year of my studies.”

Matilda’s story demonstrates the huge difference a relatively small amount, given at just the right moment, can make.

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Personal Development Awards 

Since its inception, the Fund has enhanced our student experience by providing Personal Development Awards in the arts, sport and through travel opportunites.

Garance Zinzen, pictured above, benefited from an SOF Arts Management Group Award that provides small grants to students or student groups to undertake ventures in any branch of the arts. Garance was able to travel to the European Swing Dance Championships, “it was an incredible training and competition experience. Being able to dance with international teachers and dancers who were among the best in their country was an incredible opportunity.”

Mia Davis was able to undertake an internship as an editorial assistant in Shanghai during a two-month cultural exchange thanks to the SOF Fund for Students Travelling Abroad. This fund enables students to take part in personal development activities abroad. As well as gaining an insight in Chinese culture and China’s relationship with the UK, Mia gained a valuable but ‘money-can’t-buy’ experience, “what shocked me in this role was the level of responsibility that was thrust upon me. It felt good knowing that someone trusted me enough to give me the chance to fail”.

For those who display an exceptional level of ability in sport, music or arts, the Student Opportunities Fund contributes to the VC Scholarship Programme ensuring they can continue developing their extra-curricular talents while studying at Durham. Freddie Cooney, is a VC Music Scholar who chose to use his abilities to volunteer with music students at a local secondary school in his final year. The Scholarship enabled Freddie to continue his love of music throughout his time here but he found this volunteering particularly valuable, “The Scholarship programme is one that I would sincerely recommend as one that is giving ordinary students the means and opportunities to get involved in extraordinary activities, events and experiences.”

Durham continues to attract students of outstanding talent and commitment, and thanks to your generosity, they are able to thrive and make the most of every life-changing opportunity.

On behalf of our students, we’d like to thank everyone who has ever donated to the Student Opportunities Fund.

Impact - SOF Matilda Medely
"I was able to travel from Durham to Nottingham for a job interview...I am pleased to tell you that I was also offered the job...this funding has directly led to my employment in September"

Matilda Medley, Student Employability Fund (Management Studies, Collingwood College, 2019)

Impact - SOF Freddie Cooney
"This has allowed me not only to grow and develop both personally and academically, but to give something back to the local community."

Freddie Cooney , VC Scholar for Music (Modern Languages and Cultures, St Chad's College, 2019)

SOF - Mia Davis
"Taking part in this British Council cultural programme has been a unique and shaping opportunity, and I am very grateful for the financial support I have received from the Travel Abroad Fund that has enabled me to take part in this expereince."

Mia Davis, Travel Abroad Award (Chinese Studies, St Cuthbert's Society)

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Development and Alumni Relations Office
The Palatine Centre
Stockton Road
Durham
DH1 3LE

0191 334 6305
alumni.office@durham.ac.uk

The full team is currently working out of the office due to Covid-19. We always love to hear from you but it may take us a little longer than usual to respond - especially by mail or telephone. Thank you for bearing with us. Please do get in touch with us online for anything time-sensitive at alumni.office@durham.ac.uk