Fundraising and donations

Students George Modica-Cliff and Rebekkah Duff are pursuing their goals in engineering and medicine thanks to the generosity of donors

The generosity of donors has a profound impact upon the student experience at the University of Plymouth. For many, a bursary or scholarship can make all the difference when making a decision over whether or not to undertake higher education. Donations change lives – from fundraising for research into brain tumours to helping care leavers or other high priority groups take their first steps towards a new future. 

Here we meet a couple of students whose university experience has been transformed by opportunities afforded to them by our donors.

Engineering a greener tomorrow

“My career ambition is to work with energy or manufacturing in a sustainable way,” says George Modica-Cliff, a second-year student on the MEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering with Composites degree. “I would love to create a solution to the world’s dependence on fossil fuels – one that is affordable and accessible to everyone.” 

It’s an ambition that is being supported by the Tamar Engineering Project (TEP), a national-first mentoring and scholarship programme that aims to nurture talent in a critically important discipline for the country. Developed in partnership with engineering alumnus Stephen Ball, former CEO of Lockheed Martin UK, the TEP covers 29 degree courses across engineering, computing and robotics and offers successful applicants a course fee waiver, a contribution to living costs, and personal mentoring from a senior figure in industry. And it is primarily aimed at those who come from key widening participation backgrounds, such as those who are first generation university applicants or in need of financial assistance. George was one of just three students to qualify for the TEP in the last academic year, after he enrolled at the University from UTC (University Technical College) Plymouth. “I was very excited and proud, and it confirmed that my decision to do a degree at Plymouth was the right one,” he says. “I felt lucky, as well as more confident, and it boosted my self-esteem.” 

George has been placed with Iain Priest, National Engineering Manager – Energy Recovery Facilities (ERF) at Viridor. And it was the chance to learn from just such a senior figure that inspired him to apply for the TEP in the first place. 

“Iain is a professional engineer, who understands the skills and competencies that are required for a career in engineering,” George says. “He is helping me to develop those skills and giving me insights into how employers think. Furthermore, he is giving me opportunities to visit his workplace and practise presentation skills.”

Citing the confidence the mentoring has given him, and the money that has enabled him to concentrate on both his studies and his extracurricular activities, George was a member of the Plymouth team that won the Institute of Mechanical Engineers’ 2019 Design Challenge in October, last year. He has also undertaken some tutoring of maths students at the University. 

“I have really enjoyed my first year,” George adds. “The lectures and laboratories have introduced me to academic practices as well as engineering, and I feel that I have contributed in a small way to helping others.”

Expanding global healthcare horizons

Rebekkah Duff has been building up to this moment for years – a chance to apply her medical skills and knowledge in a socio-economic setting where equal access to healthcare cannot be taken for granted.

Tackling health inequalities has been a motivational force for Rebekkah ever since she enrolled on the Bachelor of Medicine degree four years ago. Now, thanks to an intercalating bursary, she is undertaking the MSc Global Health (Remote and Rural) degree during her fifth year of study, before resuming her undergraduate degree in September 2020.

“The aim of me doing the MSc was to learn more about the ethics and logistics of global health projects and discover how I could become involved in the future,” Rebekkah says. 

“I am interested in humanitarian medical work but have become inspired from my early experiences of the course to consider how I could make a greater impact in alternative ways while also focusing locally.” 

The intercalating bursary provides funding to students to cover an extra year of study that will develop their skills in a particular way. For Rebekkah, the year enables her to build upon the voluntary work she has undertaken in Plymouth and New York over the course of recent summers, in particular working with teenagers from complex social backgrounds.

As part of the masters degree, she is volunteering with an organisation working with refugees dispersed across Plymouth, and has attended a women’s group where participants have the chance to act, sing and share their stories. For her dissertation, Rebekkah will interview a number of refugees about their experiences, as well as undertake a camping trip on Dartmoor for the remote and rural element of the programme.

“I am aware of the importance of addressing global health issues in developing countries and the local community,” Rebekkah says. “Global healthcare will lay the foundations for me to deliver safe, legal and ethical care in under-resourced and remote areas. I aspire to travel within my career, helping communities and working with patients and doctors from different backgrounds. This programme will enhance my understanding of cultural differences, political difficulties and health inequalities in various communities.” 

Rebekkah hopes the experience will serve her in good stead for working in international consultancy or for the likes of the World Health Organization, and bring her into contact with other like-minded medics.

Messages from our donors

  • @ "‘The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized during the lifetime of the opportunity.’ All possible good wishes on your great potential journey.” John
  • @ “I absolutely loved my time at Plymouth – all those years ago. Wishing you the best of luck – keep learning.” Alexandra
  • @ “It’s a wonderful life and your time at Plymouth will serve you well always. Very best wishes for your future!” Stefan
  • @ “I hope your university life will be the start of good times for you, with wonderful opportunities, lovely friends and lots of fun. Today is always the first day of the rest of your life! Good luck.” Rosamund

To support students like Rebekkah and George, visit www.plymouth.ac.uk/campaign/the-plymouth-fund