The Cowrie Scholarship Foundation

The Cowrie Scholarship Foundation

At a glance


  • Black, asian and minority ethnic groups
  • Education

Other details

Organisation type: 
Geographical remit: 
National - Britain



To create a new future for 100+ disadvantaged Black British students through education.

The Cowrie Scholarship Foundation wants to fund and support disadvantaged Black British students into Higher Education at UK universities. We believe that learning in higher education can transform a person’s life and the society around them, creating a more equitable society and more diverse future leaders.


To empower 100 disadvantaged, talented Black British students over the next decade, by fully funding their undergraduate fees and living expenses in partnership with universities, donors and businesses, supported by mentors.


Changing one life through education will provide a ripple effect to change many more lives in the future. We anticipate one hundred Cowrie scholarships will have a positive impact on social mobility, academic diversity, a more inclusive society representative of 21st century Britain, and a more diverse workforce and leadership.


Named after the Cowrie shells that were historically one of the most successful and universal forms of currency in West Africa, The Cowrie Scholarship Foundation launched in June 2020, following the murder of George Floyd and renewed global focus on the Black experience. Cowrie’s Founder, Professor Richard Oreffo, set the explicit goal of supporting at least 100 disadvantaged talented Black British students in the next 10 years through UK universities, thereby contributing to positive educational change.


Fundamentally, the Foundation believes that access to university should not be limited by race or social class; all should have access to a positive and enriching academic experience. Equality, diversity and inclusion matter. Unfortunately, socio-economically disadvantaged Black British students are much less likely to attend our high-tariff universities. Whilst many issues influence  the lack of Black British students in our universities, The Cowrie Scholarship Foundation seeks to address one part of the jigsaw: the financial cost of university education.


In June 2020, Professor Oreffo invited UK universities to take decisive action by partnering to address the disproportionate lack of Black British students. The Foundation’s model is simple: Partner universities cover tuition fees; donors and businesses provide support for maintenance. A third key pillar is added through Cowrie’s professional mentor programme, in partnership with WithInsight Education and corporate volunteer guidance, to support scholars through their undergraduate course: this provides wrap-around support, establishing a strong platform for success both at university and in the future.

Two years on, the Foundation has already formally partnered with 26 universities (including 12 Russell Group) who have contributed over £3.6m for tuition fees. To date, the Foundation has placed 23 disadvantaged, talented Black British scholars on full undergraduate scholarships.

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