Michael Bloomberg, the US billionaire, is to donate more than £1m to fund a replacement for residential university summer schools for British disadvantaged pupils, the Sutton Trust has announced.
Bloomberg, a former mayor of New York and presidential candidate, said the new online platform to be called Sutton Trust is intended to help the sixth-formers who would have been eligible for a place on the trust’s face-to-face programmes cancelled because of coronavirus.
“The coronavirus crisis has presented a whole new set of challenges for students from low-income families, interrupting the school year and cutting off access to resources that help students stay on track – like university application guidance,” Bloomberg said.
“Bloomberg Philanthropies has helped more than 70,000 talented low and middle-income students apply to and enrol in top colleges in the US through our virtual advising programme, and we’re glad to support the work that Sutton Trust online is leading in the UK.
“A parent’s income should never determine a child’s likelihood of going to university – and with the coronavirus taking a devastating financial toll on families, and casting so much uncertainty into young people’s lives, this work is more important and more urgent than ever before.”
The trust said the funding would create online content for students, and a platform for the sixth-formers to receive advice and teaching from the programme’s higher education partners, including Imperial College London and the University of St Andrews.
The trust said its residential and face-to-face summer programmes can only reach about 2,000 students each year, while around 6,000 eligible sixth-formers apply. “The new platform and the Bloomberg funding over three years means the 4,000 who currently don’t get any provision will now get support,” a spokesperson for the trust said.
The students come from across the UK and have met social mobility criteria, such as eligibility for free school meals or were attending a school with a low progression rate to higher education.
Sir Peter Lampl, the trust’s chair and founder, said he was confident that the new platform will be a good substitute for its traditional summer schools.
“Our research has shown that the coronavirus has had a major impact on young people and will have a profound effect on their futures. High quality support is needed more than ever. But with face-to-face programmes unable to go ahead, there is a serious gap,” Lampl said.
The new platform will include features of the trust’s summer schools, including academic content, guidance on applications and student finance, as well as an insight into university life.