The Centenary scholarships, backed by £60,000 in UK government funding, are being made available to cover the living costs for students from backgrounds less likely to go to university.
At Queen’s University Belfast, a Northern Ireland Centenary Scholarship will support a graduate of the Queen’s Senior Academy or Pathway Opportunity Programme.
The university has also created the Northern Ireland Centenary Senior Academy Bursary Fund to provide financial support to students who have completed the Queen’s University Senior Academy programme and will begin their studies in autumn 2021.
At Ulster University, Northern Ireland Centenary Scholarships will be awarded in support of Ulster’s Belfast Community Scholarship and Northern Ireland Community Scholarship schemes.
Smaller awards will support talented students in need of financial assistance as part of the Ulster University Student Opportunity Fund. The Community Scholarships will be awarded to students entering their first year at Ulster in September 2022 with applications opening in April 2022. The Student Opportunity Fund opens to students in late September.
Mr Lewis said: “This is levelling up in action, as the scheme is geared towards supporting students from backgrounds less likely to go to university.
“Provided by two of the UK’s world-class universities, Queen’s University Belfast and the Ulster University, this is a great opportunity for students to access brilliant facilities and opportunities to build their future careers.”
Professor Ian Greer, vice-chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast, said: “This very welcome funding helps us open doors to third level education for students who otherwise may not get the chance.
“We will allocate the funding to students who qualify for our Widening Participation criteria, designed to support young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds as part of our desire to widen access to third level education.
“We very much appreciate the financial assistance being made available by the NIO as part of their Centenary year and feel it is very fitting that it will assist young people as they begin their university journey.”
Professor Paul Bartholomew, vice-chancellor of Ulster University, said: “At Ulster University we believe in creating access to education for everyone. This generous funding from the Northern Ireland Office will help students from low income and disadvantaged backgrounds to access the qualifications, experience and skills that will enable them to fulfil their potential.
“The funding will provide two full scholarships as part of our Community Scholarships programme and give further support for students via Ulster University’s Student Opportunity Fund which makes financial assistance available in achieving excellence, reaching potential and addressing hardship.
“Support like this truly helps to transform lives and we are delighted to work with the Northern Ireland Office to offer these scholarships.”