College life having a big impact on rural students

Skye Haigh grew up on a sheep property near Trangie, a town of 850 people six hours drive northwest of Sydney. She applied for a scholarship at UNSW because she wanted to live on campus in a college.

“College life is such a big part of my university experience. It made it so much easier for me to adjust,” says Skye, an Environmental Engineering student, who is now sports’ director at Basser College.

“It was hugely important to get the financial support. If it wasn’t for that and some savings I had made in my gap year, I wouldn’t be at UNSW or at college. I’m just so grateful.”

Skye is one of two recipients of the David Nunan Rural Residential Scholarships, among eight new residential scholarships established at the Kensington Colleges over the last two years, thanks to UNSW alumni donations.

UNSW aims to find donors to fund 50 more residential scholarships. The goal is to establish a $10 million endowed pool to create life-changing opportunities for students. The endowment is especially aimed at rural and Indigenous students, who might be unable to afford to live on campus, or who are unable to take up the opportunity to attend UNSW at all. The plan is for 9,000 students to live on campus, out of a total 52,000 students.

Zoe Devries, a second-year Science Engineering student and another scholarship recipient says she loves “everything” about college life.

“It’s convenient, you get to know new people, there’s academic and pastoral support. I love it! The best thing is being with people – I’m an only child and I like having people around,” she said.

Skye and Zoe recently met David Nunan, who funds their scholarship and lived in the Kensington Colleges himself in the early 1970s, studying a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Education.

“When I came from Broken Hill to study, I had only $10 in my pocket and no support in Sydney,” said Nunan. “It was a big change for someone who had never been to the city. My time here was pivotal, both personally and professionally.”

Nunan went onto become a linguist, who has focused his career teaching English as a Second Language. His series Go for it! is the largest-selling textbook series in the world, with sales exceeding 2.5 billion copies.

“I found the support I needed and still have so many friends and colleagues from here,” Nunan says. “It’s a great joy to be able to come back and help young people who have had to travel to further their education.”

For many students, life-long networks built in college also become the foundation of many personal and career opportunities, both in Australia and internationally.

Jimmy Koh, a successful Singaporean businessman, was one of the initial overseas students to arrive at Basser College, the first of the Kensington Colleges, in 1961.

“The friends that I met at college, like former UNSW Vice Chancellor John Niland, have formed a very big part of my business and friendship network throughout my life,” Koh says. “Just two years ago, nine of my mates came to Singapore to celebrate our 50-year reunion. It was most gratifying.

For more information about this story, or other news out of the UNSW Foundation, please contact Chris Lewis:

Email: chris.lewis[at][dot]au

Phone: 9385 8344







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