Development & Alumni Relations Office 



MEGAN EDWARDS, MANSION HOUSE SCHOLAR 2020  Mansion House scholar, Megan Edwards in graduation gown in front of Queen's building

31 July 2020

Megan Edwards, a two times Queen’s Law graduate (LLB 2019, LLM 2020) from Strabane in County Tyrone, is Northern Ireland’s first recipient of a Mansion House Scholarship which will enable her to continue her studies and pursue her dream of becoming a barrister.  

Launched in 1998 by the Lord Mayor and City of London Corporation, the Mansion House Scholarship Scheme has granted over 180 scholarships to postgraduate students from 67 countries around the world.  The scheme aims to enable students and young executives to travel to the UK to study, or undertake training or work experience in, the financial services or professional sectors. 

In February, Megan successfully applied to Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne in the North East of England, to undertake the post-graduate Bar Practise Course (BPC), an essential element in becoming a practicing barrister. Advised that a number of scholarships were available – and just days before the lockdown in March – she attended interview and was subsequently offered one of the awards, which amounts to a full fee waiver for the course.

“I don’t know if I can adequately express what winning this scholarship means to me,” Megan told Queen’s. “I come from a working-class background, and am from the first generation on both sides of my family to go to – and graduate from – university, and the first person to study at Master’s level!”

To qualify as a barrister and to be called to the Bar of England and Wales, students are required to complete the BPC along with 10 Qualifying Sessions with an Inn of Court in London. The Mansion House Scholarship will cover subsistence, accommodation and travel expenses whilst Megan is studying in England, ultimately enabling her to become a barrister with no financial impediment.

Megan, who describes her time at Queen’s as ‘the best years of her life’, started her University journey as a Medical Student in 2015, before swapping courses a year later.  

“It had always been a toss-up between Medicine and Law for me and, unfortunately, I had chosen Medicine for all the wrong reasons,” she said. “It wasn’t until I switched courses and began my Law degree that my whole world changed.

“In my first 2 weeks, I met girls who would go on to become my rocks and best-friends for the next 3 years. Changing course changed my life and to this day it is probably the best decision I have ever made because of the path it has put me on,” Megan added.

Throughout her four years at Queen’s Megan has been actively involved in student life, volunteering to serve, among other roles, as a:

  • Consent Ambassador, responsible for facilitating and delivering workshops on sexual consent;
  • Peer Mentor, offering first year law students support through their adjustment from school to University;
  • Student Ambassador, helping out at undergraduate Open Days, offer holder events and other activities for prospective Law students;
  • Global Opportunities Ambassador, following her participation in the Erasmus programme;
  • Widening Participation Unit (WPU) Student Assistant, which has involved her working at the Pathway Opportunity Programme’s Summer Residential, as well as the Senior Academy and any other Queen’s Academy events.

Megan has a very personal reason for singling out her time in the WPU – a University unit which ensures those who are ‘most able but least likely’ are given the opportunity to progress to Higher Education – as among her foremost Queen’s memories.

“My sister was one of the first participants of the Pathway Opportunity Programme and has just completed her second year studying Law and Spanish at Queen’s. She too is a Student Assistant with WPU as she is perhaps best placed to comment on how good the team and programmes offered are.

“I am a massive proponent for access to education and have loved working with a team of people who are so committed to inspiring younger students to fulfil their potential and raise awareness of the educational opportunities available to them, regardless of background.”

Clearly determined to get the very best out of her Queen’s experience, Megan also lists the opportunity to travel as another stand-out recollection.

“I studied abroad for a semester in my final year as part of the Erasmus Programme and moved to Budapest, Hungary. During my time there I lived with flatmates from Belgium, India and England and made friends from all over the world.

“A year and a half later I can say wholeheartedly that my life has been so much more enriched by studying abroad and it has helped me – not only in my personal life but also in professional aspects as well.”

Appointment as a Mansion House Scholar comes from the Lord Mayor of the City of London (currently Alderman William Russell) not to be confused with the Mayor of the London (Sadiq Khan), with whom the public may be more familiar. The City of London is one of 33 boroughs within in Greater London, each with its own Mayor.

Scholars are selected principally from the countries visited by the Lord Mayor during his or her year in office, on the advice of the British Ambassadors or High Commissioners in those countries. Awards vary in size but may be up to £10,000.

In the last two years, the Mansion House Scholarship Scheme – which offers between 2-5 awards per annum – has been extended to all regions of the United Kingdom. With her successful application, Megan becomes only the third winner from within the UK and the first recipient from Queen’s or Northern Ireland. Her award is worth £10,000, though as a Mansion House Scholar Megan will also receive a number of other benefits.

“The scheme is largely funded by Livery Company donations and other donors in the City of London,” explained Edward Montgomery, Secretary and Representative (Ireland) of The Honourable the Irish Society. “The Livery Companies and Trustees also tend to provide some mentoring and other professional help to scholars, and the Lord Mayor will also take a close personal interest,” he added.

The City of London’s links with Northern Ireland date back to 1613 and continue through the Honourable the Irish Society, which is a charitable foundation in its own right. Operating mainly in the Derry~Londonderry and Coleraine areas, it has issued over £230,000 to local community, educational and other projects on a cross community basis this year alone – many of them to COVID-19 emergency relief projects.

“As soon as it is possible, we will arrange for Megan to visit London to meet the Lord Mayor. In normal circumstances, this would have taken place at one of the formal banquets which he hosts during the year at the Mansion House – his official residence in the heart of the City of London,” continued Edward.

In the coming year, subject to coronavirus restrictions, Megan can expect to meet representatives of the City Livery Companies and Guilds that fund the Scholarship Scheme, receive invitations to formal events and meet the other new scholars appointed this year – two of whom are from Mexico and one each from Nigeria and from India. She will also be offered a personal mentor by the Company of International Bankers from amongst its members, to offer her friendship and advice during the year.

All of which has left Megan acutely aware of the value and importance of philanthropic support for current students.

“I think scholarship funding is extremely important. Currently, I am writing my Master’s thesis, and would not be doing so if it weren’t for the James MacQuitty Scholarship.

“Make no mistake, if it had not of been for this I would not be studying at Master’s level as postgraduate students are not given maintenance funding in Northern Ireland and thus I would not have been able to afford to do so.

Had it not been for the James MacQuitty Scholarship Megan may not have been able to consider undertaking a Master’s at Queen’s, which consequently would have meant she would have missed out on the Mansion House Scholarship, and the chance of pursuing her dreams of becoming a barrister.

“I know if it weren’t for the kindness of strangers I would not be in the position I am today, not only professionally and academically but also personally. I am happy, enjoy living in my present and am excited for the future and know that it could have been so different for me if not for the support I have received via donors and scholarships.”

Taking nothing for granted and grateful to everyone who has supported her throughout her time at University, Megan appealed to her fellow alumni to consider what they could do to make a difference.

“I am under no illusion that I am extremely fortunate and am aware that there are so many other students like me; who not only need but deserve a break with regards to their education, professional life or both.

“I would encourage Queen’s graduates who are in the position to support current students at the University to provide funding for scholarships because you don’t know how much something like that can mean to people, or how far it will actually go. It only takes one small act of kindness – for someone to see and believe in a person – to make a huge difference in their life or career.

“I think that difference is something that you can’t really put a price on.”

Go to: https://www.mansionhousescholars.org.uk/ for more information on the Mansion House Scholarship Scheme.

For general enquiries about this story, or to submit a graduate news item, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen’s University Belfast.

 

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