A visionary donor to York set up the York Opportunity Awards to help young people facing some of the most difficult barriers to entering higher education

The late Peter Whelpton (1969, Economics) had a vision to transform the lives of young people living with some of the most extreme hardships. He recognised that young carers, those with a disability, care leavers, and those with other difficult personal situations, face substantial barriers to reaching university. They often lack the financial support, networks and encouragement that their peers may enjoy. Peter also recognised the transformational impact that a university education can have on young people’s futures. With Peter’s generous gift the York Opportunity Awards were set up at the University of York in 2010. A scholarship of £1,100 per year for three years is provided to each York Opportunity recipient – those undergraduates coming to York having faced these significant barriers to entering higher education.


In the last seven years over 60 undergraduate students have benefited from the generosity of Peter and other donors like you who have since been inspired to contribute to this incredible fund. The impact of these gifts is enormous. For the students it is a recognition of achievement and promise, and a boost in confidence that has often been missing from their lives. The Award also reduces the pressure to work in part-time jobs, and provides vital funds for books, computers, work experience, and offers the possibility of overseas study and travel.


Peter sadly died in December 2016 but his extraordinary legacy means that 13 York Opportunity Awards will be offered each year for the foreseeable future. This means that 1 in every 15 applicants, rather than 1 in 40, will be supported during their studies at York. The need is still great and we continue to seek out others who may be inspired by Peter’s vision.

“Receiving this scholarship has given me the confidence, motivation and peace that I have needed to complete my studies at the University of York.”

Joanna, third year

“As a student with a chronic illness, before coming to university I was extremely concerned about the potentially huge impact on my studies of having to work part-time as well as studying. The York Opportunity Award has allowed me the financial freedom to not need to do so, which has undoubtedly been responsible in large part for the high grades I have managed to achieve so far during my degree. The award has allowed me to focus my too often limited energy on my university work as much as I have needed to and to achieve great results, and has even allowed me the chance to engage with extracurricular and social activities, which I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.”

Alice, third year

“Without it I would not have the finances to travel, have new experiences, build my CV and help others by teaching in a primary summer school programme in Cambodia. This is the third year in a row I have visited this school. I see the children from previous years growing and it is an absolute privilege to be a part of this. None of this would have been possible without your generosity. Many of my university-going friends from London are astounded to hear of the tremendous, big and small, acts of kindness York does for its students. You are a huge part of that and I would really like to say a massive thank you for this. As I look forward to graduating this year and joining the alumni community, I hope I can do the same for others at York in due time.”

Maja, third year