Brilliant Club

Mayors speak at Scholars Programme Graduation Events to celebrate students’ achievements

12 Mar 2024

Lord Mayors of Oxford and Westminster and the Mayor of Cambridge visited our Scholars Programme graduations over the last few weeks to sing the praises of young Scholars, and celebrate the programme.

The last few weeks have seen thousands of students across the country attending Graduation Events to celebrate their achievement in finishing The Scholars Programme. The graduation ceremony is designed to feel like a university graduation – students are called up by name, they collect a certificate, and some even act as ‘Spokes-Scholars’, sharing what they learned and reflecting on their course. They hear from current students, attend a campus tour, learn about university life and finances, and imagine what it might be like to attend a competitive university.

For some students, the Graduation Event was also an opportunity to hear a keynote speech from Mayors and Lord Mayors, and to learn about their educational journeys. We were visited by Lord Mayor Lubna Arshad at the University of Oxford graduation ceremony, Lord Mayor Patricia McAllister at the Courtauld Institute of Art, and Madam Mayor Jenny Gawthorpe Wood at the University of Cambridge.

Cllr Lubna Arshad, the Lord Mayor of Oxford, spoke to over 300 of our scholars at Oxford Town Hall about her working-class background and shared that the mission of The Scholars Programme is especially close to her heart as the first Muslim mayor of Oxford. She congratulated the students for their hard work on their courses and encouraged them to keep believing in a successful future. The mayor told us that it was ‘truly wonderful to celebrate the achievements of pupils’ during the ceremony and to see the ‘diverse participation from schools across the country’.

Similarly, Patricia McAllister, the Lord Mayor of Westminster, encouraged pupils to take pride in their achievements and spoke about the transformative power of education at the Courtauld Institute of Art. She gave students an important piece of advice for their future: “Don’t run headlong through one open door; take your time to think.”

This was an exciting opportunity for the graduating students, as they were able to view the paintings that they have been studying as part of their ‘Representations of Childhood in Visual Art’ course during a tour of the Gallery. The Lord Mayor then handed each of the students their certificates in her full ceremonial gown.

Lord Mayor of Westminster, Cllr Patricia McAllister, hands out certificates to Scholars Programme students at the Courtauld Institute of Art


At the University of Cambridge, Cllr Jenny Gawthorpe Wood, the Mayor of Cambridge, spoke to seven schools from across the Midlands, East of England, and South East of England, who had spent the morning touring Cambridge colleges. She spoke to the students about the importance of considering lots of different perspectives, telling the Scholars that all young people’s voices should be heard. She shared her own journey to being Mayor of Cambridge, and praised the students for completing a difficult programme at such a young age. After the event, she told us:

“I was so impressed to hear from the scholars: what they had been learning and how they had managed working at effectively University level, writing long essays and then talking about their work in front of us all. Giving pupils this kind of opportunity and the right environment and support is so important, given pupils’ different life chances. It was great to hear how the scholars were finding their own voices – some of the creative writing was fantastic – and developing their analytic skills and presenting on key topics such as net zero and sustainability, film studies, and what we can learn from the fall of the Roman Empire.  Many of the young people have overcome challenges and have clearly been developing discipline and resilience and thinking what they could aspire to and how to achieve that. I would love to hear how they are doing in the future!  Well done to all the tutors, PhD students and especially all the scholar pupils”

The Mayor of Cambridge, Cllr Jenny Gawthorpe-Wood, speaks at the Scholars Programme graduation ceremony at the University of Cambridge

But these are only a few highlights from the graduations that have been running across the country over the past three weeks. In total, The Brilliant Club held 45 graduation events at competitive universities in February, with 3199 students receiving certificates to mark the end of their course.

One headteacher who visited the University of Warwick spoke to us about the importance of the graduation ceremony for their students: ‘You want to ‘level-up’; break the hold of the “advantaged” over university places?’, they said, ‘do [The Scholars Programme]. Maybe my students will remember the impact of plankton on climate change; but they will never, ever forget their graduation – and all that went towards it’.

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