Penny Foster, Programme Lead for the Laidlaw Scholarship Programme, explains how philanthropy is making an amazing difference as York looks to develop tomorrow’s leaders

The Laidlaw Scholarship is a fantastic example of how philanthropy can make a huge difference to the potential of future generations, made possible thanks to the generosity of Lord Laidlaw of Rothiemay. Now in its second year, this exciting programme aims to develop the leaders of tomorrow by providing a rich research and learning experience for York’s most talented and ambitious undergraduates.


To fulfil the Scholarship, each year 25 undergraduate students lead their own independent research project over two summers. The diverse range of projects in the first year included an investigation into the sustainability of independent political websites in Singapore, an exploration of risk and protective factors of resilience in children with reading difficulties, and a project to identify how to improve magnetic imaging in medical equipment. In addition to the research, Scholars undertake an intensive leadership programme including a development centre, workshops, personality profile and coaching. As part of the programme they also gain a Level 5 management qualification with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).


The approach of combining a research project and leadership development programme sets the students up for a bright future. At the first Laidlaw Conference, which brought together Laidlaw Scholars from different universities to network, learn and discuss leadership development, guest speakers including alumnus Finbar Hawkins, Creative Lead at Aardman Digital, shared insights and experience.

Laidlaw Scholars also take part in a day in the community, which challenges them to understand their social impact and ability to leave a legacy. York Cemetery was the location for a day focused on improving the green space for visitors while the Scholars learnt about leadership models and teamwork theory.


Our Scholars have presented at international conferences and produced academic papers, giving their research great exposure in the academic community and also developing their skills in presentations, writing and communication. In June 2018, 10 of the Laidlaw Scholars gave three-minute presentations as part of the York Festival of Ideas to an audience of 150 people including around 70 secondary school children – a great opportunity to inspire and engage the next generation in research and leadership!

As the Scholarship progresses, we are keen to develop this into a truly international programme. The number of universities delivering the Laidlaw Scholarship grows each year, and in 2018 the Universities of Columbia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Toronto and Dublin joined as Laidlaw Universities.

“The Laidlaw Scholarship has been instrumental in allowing me to explore a future career in research, develop transferable skills, build a network of high-profile contacts, and gain confidence as an individual.”

Philippa Winship, 2017 Laidlaw Scholar

“It’s challenged me, taught me how to work with others and has even made me consider a future career that involves management – something I hadn’t considered before.”

Rebecca Lowndes, 2017 Laidlaw Scholar

“The Laidlaw Scholarship has been the starting point for my future career development. Each component of the programme has given me the tools necessary to evaluate career opportunities and assess if career paths are aligned to my preferences, strengths and areas for development.”

Bethany White, 2017 Laidlaw Scholar