TWELVE college students will be the first beneficiaries of the bursary scheme set up by Helena Kennedy QC.
The bursaries, of pound;1,000 each, go to students with the ability but not necessarily the means to progress into higher education. Financial hardship was identified by Baroness Kennedy in her report, Learning Works, as a major barrier to widening participation in further and higher education.
The recipients (see box) will be presented with their awards by Education Secretary David Blunkett at the Association of Colleges conference later this year.
Ann Limb, principal of Cambridge Regional College, who founded the scheme with Helena Kennedy, said she'd been moved by the stories behind the 120 applications they had received.
"But the most moving thing was the extent to which further education really had boosted the self-confidence and self-esteem and motivation of people who had often taken a lot of knocks."
The scheme has so far raised pound;30,000 but Ann Limb wants to double that figure with new corporate sponsorship. She repeated Helena Kennedy's appeal for everybody who can afford it to donate an hour's wages towards the appeal for the millennium.
A chance encounter when bursary winner Winnie Hignell took her son to nursery school set her on the road to university. "I met a liaison officer from the college who said 'why don't you come along, you've got nothing to lose. Just go and see what's going on'."
Ms Hignell signed up to a women returners' course at Bournville College in Birmingham. A part-time auxiliary nurse and single mother of three, she had left formal education with no academic qualifications. School had been "extremely difficult", and at college she found out why.
"One of the biggest turning points was when I was diagnosed dyslexic. I always thought I was just thick." Ms Hignell passed GCSEs in English, maths, law and human physiology and health, and then signed up for an access course.
She says her children, now aged 12, 11, and nine, became willing participants in regular round-the-table homework sessions.
Ms Hignell begins a three-year course in youth and community work at Birmingham University in the autumn "Before, I limited myself to certain types of work but I don't want to pigeonhole myself. Now I feel all these options are open to me."
Robert Ashworth Evesham College Ian Blaber Haywards Heath College Marcia Bonner Kingsway College Maureen Dempsey Kensington and Chelsea College Anna El-HadidiBury College Cheryl GibbsEastleigh College Winifred HignellBournville College Lisa KirbyWyggeston and Queen Elizabeth I College John LewisHugh Baird College Carmel MowattLiverpool Community College Nuran NaharTower Hamlets College Kevin RobertsLeeds College of Art and Design