Foundation year medical students who could benefit from the James Johnston
Bursary Fund
A game-changing legacy of more than £1 million will support University of Plymouth students into medical careers for generations to come.
From September 2023 onwards, a new bursary will benefit around a quarter of the University’s aspiring doctors, as they progress from a foundation year to the first year of their degree.
As part of a drive to open up access to careers in medicine, the fund will target undergraduates from under-represented and disadvantaged backgrounds.
The £1,158,644 bequest from Jean Johnston is in memory of her late son James, who studied at Plymouth in the 1980s.
The University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dame Judith Petts DBE, said:
“Mrs Johnston’s support for medical students will benefit generations of trainee doctors, opening many doors to those wishing to undertake medical training. Our medics go on to work across the UK and the world – practising in every area of medicine – so I can only imagine the number of lives that will be impacted by the James Johnston Bursary Fund over the coming decades.”
Through its work on widening participation, the University already awards a bursary of £1,000 to students who undertake a foundation year of study as preparation for five years of study on its Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery programmes.
The funding can be the difference between students being able to join the course or not, and the new James Johnston Bursary Fund will see each cohort of students – around 40 per year – who progress from the foundation year to their degree in medicine awarded a further £500.
Additional money will be available through the creation of an opportunities fund, also derived from the legacy donation.
Medical students using the Anatomage table clinical
By investing the donation and using the interest from it to benefit students, the aim is for the support to continue in perpetuity.
Jean Johnston’s niece, Dr Pru Allington Smith, said:
“Jean loved life and was incredibly kind to all who knew her. She was very pleased to be able to do this and to keep her son James’s memory alive. His was a short life, but an important one. The thought that something would go on in Plymouth in his name meant a huge amount to her.”
Mrs Johnston was born in Plymouth and remained very fond of the city throughout her life. She worked as a nurse in the army, where she met her husband Ian who was an eye surgeon. Meanwhile their son, James, studied at Plymouth and his family remember that as a happy time for him.
Head of the University’s Peninsula Medical School, Professor Laura Bowater MBE, said:
“We are passionate about making the medical profession more accessible and diverse; this extraordinarily generous legacy is a real game-changer. The fact we are able to offer bursaries and other financial support on a rolling basis has a huge impact on our efforts in encouraging students who might not normally consider a career in medicine because of their background or personal situations.
“My team works hard to build the aspirations of people from all parts of society, supporting them from primary school to medical practice, but money is so often the heart of the challenge. Being able to offer £1,500 of support to the students most in need of support during their first two years at the University will make a tremendously positive difference to them.”

Scholarships, bursaries and funding

To ease the pressure on your finances during your studies, the University offers a host of funding opportunities to support your time here. From finding out whether you're eligible to how you apply, our scholarships, bursaries and funding pages guide you through the options available.
You may find that more than one option is relevant to you – if in doubt we recommend discussing your application with us.
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