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St John’s reaches out to top Singaporean students with new funding programme

Ernest Goh, pictured centre with his family, will be the first recipient of the new Award. He said he was surprised, excited, and “perhaps even slightly overwhelmed”. Image by permission of E. Goh.

A new Academic Award scheme which will help outstanding students from Singapore to cover the costs of their first year of study at St John’s College has been announced.

Under the scheme, one Singaporean undergraduate per year will receive a one-off sum of S$20,000, which they will be able to put towards educational and living expenses during their first year at Cambridge.

The aim is to ensure that students from Singapore who have demonstrated both the requisite academic excellence and, more generally, the potential to thrive at the University are given a strong basis from which to start their Cambridge career.

The annual Award will be available to students who have already successfully applied for a place at St John’s. It is being paid for using a new fund, created using donations from College alumni.

It also complements a number of other, similar initiatives, which are already in place to help overseas students meet the costs of study at the University of Cambridge as a whole.

The St John’s scheme will come into effect from the start of the new academic year, which begins in October. The first recipient will be Ernest Goh, a 19-year-old debating champion, who has gained a place at the College to study Law.

Alongside an extensive and growing support programme for students from lower and middle-income families in the UK, St John’s has a similarly expanding set of prizes, awards and bursaries in place to help overseas students, for whom the costs and challenges of studying at a British institution are sometimes very different.

Dr Matthias Dörrzapf, who is Senior Tutor at St John’s and has overall responsibility for students’ educational needs, said: “The College is committed to ensuring that the very best students, who are capable of making the most of the educational and academic experience that Cambridge has to offer, are given the opportunity to come here.”

“To fulfil that commitment, support initiatives like this one, which some of our alumni have helped us to establish in Singapore, are absolutely essential. We hope that this will now give top class Singaporean students who are thinking about overseas study an extra reason to apply to Cambridge.”

The Singapore Award has been set up using substantial donations from three alumni of St John’s. Together, these represent enough to enable the College to provide the $20,000 to one new student each academic year, with an option on helping a second in years when there are particularly strong candidates. On average, four to five new Singaporean undergraduates join the College every October.

Any Singaporean student who successfully applies to the College and wins a place through the normal admissions and interview process will subsequently be invited to apply for the Award. A dedicated committee will then consider their academic record, and interview shortlisted candidates in Singapore.

Mr Goh, who attended Raffles Institution, where he excelled in particular in Economics, History, and Literature, said that he was very surprised, excited, and “perhaps even slightly overwhelmed” after being told that he would be the first person to receive the Award. Aside from his academic interests, he is also a keen debater, won the World Schools Debating Championships in 2015, and now hopes to apply his talent for public speaking in the chamber of the Cambridge Union.

“It has been a dream of mine for several years now to study at Cambridge, and I feel sure that the years I have there will eventually go down as some of the best of my life,” he added. “I am very grateful to the College for this support and for the time and resources it expended reviewing my application. I already have in mind several books that I will be spending some of the money on!”

Mr Goh will follow in the footsteps of several eminent Singaporean alumni of St John’s, which has strong links with the city state. Ahmad bin Mohamed Ibrahim, the country’s first State Advocate General and first Attorney General, studied at the College in the late 1930s; as did Chong Jin Wee, the first Asian lawyer to be a judge at the Supreme Court of Singapore.

More recently, the College has educated the likes of Chuan Poh Lim, Chairman of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research; Walter Woon, David Marshall Professor at the National University of Singapore; Meng Liang Gabriel Lim, CEO of the Media Development Authority; and Peet Meng Lau, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations) on the Singapore Police Force.

Beyond the support offered to international students by Colleges, the University of Cambridge also provides some means-tested financial support to international students, as well as a limited number of further scholarships. Full information about applying to the University as an overseas student can be found here. Information about applying to St John’s and the Singapore Academic Award may be found here.