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Oxford Cambridge and RSA Examinations

Fifteen highflyers head to Cambridge University, with help of OCR bursaries

Fifteen of the West Midlands’ most talented A Level students, who are about to start as undergraduates at the University of Cambridge, have been awarded bursaries by exam board OCR to support them during their studies. The students attended a wide range of schools and colleges across the West Midlands region – including in Birmingham, Coventry, Stoke-on-Trent and Wolverhampton. 

The fifteen exceptional students, who are due to begin their degrees at Cambridge next week, will receive a bursary of £3,000 from OCR for each year of their undergraduate course. The bursaries help students to make the most of their time at university and reduce worry about money during these exceptionally challenging times. Students can use the money towards living costs, tuition fees or a combination of both.

Ever since 2004, OCR – which is part of Cambridge University – has supported students from the West Midlands going to Cambridge University due to historical links to the West Midlands Examinations Board. This year sees the largest number of OCR bursaries ever given out to students across the region.


Jill Duffy, OCR’s Chief Executive, sent a special message congratulating each of the students as they take up their studies.


She said: It’s a huge honour and privilege for us at OCR to support such a talented group of young people with our bursaries. As well as their outstanding academic achievements, these young people impressed us in so many other ways. They’ve grasped every opportunity they’ve been given, they’ve been role models for their schools and colleges, and they’ve shown amazing resilience. The last two years they have faced during the pandemic have been like no others. Times are tough for young people and we decided to offer more bursaries this year – fifteen in total – than ever before. I hope this support will go some way to helping each of the students to achieve their goals at university.”


This year’s OCR bursary winners are:

Birmingham schools (7 students)

Mohammed Hassan, 18, from Birmingham, who attended King Edward VI Aston School, will study Philosophy at Selwyn College.

Adnaan Ilyas, 18, from Birmingham, who attended King Edward VI Handsworth Grammar School for Boys, will study History and Politics at King’s College.

Arzoo Iqbal, 19, from Birmingham, who attended Swanshurst School, will study Medicine at Jesus College. 

Nidhi Juneja, 19, from Birmingham, who attended North Birmingham Academy, will study Natural Science (Biological) at St Catharine’s College.

Sobaan Mohammed, 18, from Birmingham, who attended King Edward VI Aston School, will study Education, Psychology and Learning for an Education BA at Selwyn College.

Inderpreet Kaur Pejatta, 18, from Birmingham, who attended Nishkam High School, will study Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion at Newnham College.

Karolina “Kaz” Rawdanowicz, 18, from Birmingham, who attended St Thomas Aquinas Catholic School and Sixth Form, will study English at Robinson College.


Coventry schools (2 students)

Hita Patel, 19, from Coventry, who attended the Sidney Stringer Academy in Coventry, will study Medicine at Peterhouse College.

Zara Richards, 18, from Coventry, who attended Bablake School in Coventry, will study Modern and Medieval Languages at Trinity College.


Wolverhampton school

Holly Dutton, 18, from Wolverhampton, who studied at Coppice Performing Arts School in Wolverhampton, will study Law at Peterhouse College.


Warwickshire school

Imane Jaaouine, 18, from Stratford upon Avon, who attended Stratford Girls’ Grammar School in Warwickshire, will study Chemical Engineering (via Natural Sciences) at Lucy Cavendish College.


Shropshire school

Tom Rowe, 19, from Stafford, who attended Haberdashers’ Adams Grammar School in Newport, Shropshire, will study English at King’s College.


Staffordshire school

Isaac Nicol, 18, from Stoke-on-Trent, who attended Newcastle and Stafford Colleges Group in Staffordshire, will study Natural Sciences at King’s College.


Worcestershire school

Magdalena Holloway, 18, from Hagley, who attended Hagley Catholic High School in Worcestershire, will study English at Newnham College.


Herefordshire school

Edward “Ned” Loveridge, 18, from Hereford, who attended Hereford Sixth Form College, will study Natural Sciences with a focus on Physics at King’s College.


Quotes from students:


Mohammed Hassan (photo available): “As someone who has always dreamed of being at Cambridge, to have any sort of assistance is a massive relief. The fear of whether one sudden payment will suddenly end up with me struggling has gone, allowing me to focus on being my best self and fulfilling my full potential.”


Adnaan Ilyas: “It will lift a huge burden off me, not having to worry about living costs as much, since I can put the bursary towards my rent. It will definitely enhance my time at university and allow me to make the most of this opportunity.”


Arzoo Iqbal: “I feel extremely lucky to have been selected for this bursary as it will remove any financial barriers I may face during my time as an undergraduate. It will also allow me to participate freely in various extracurricular activities and get involved with multiple societies without having to worry about getting a part-time job to subsidise my studies. As well as the social aspect, it will also help me pay for lab equipment that is needed.”


Nidhi Juneja (photo available): “Being awarded this bursary will help me to overcome any financial barriers that stop me from fully using the great opportunity I have at Cambridge and will ensure I am always able to work to the best of my ability and hopefully demonstrate what I am capable of.”


Sobaan Mohammed: “I am really grateful to be awarded the OCR bursary. This financial support will make it easier for me to access the many opportunities that Cambridge offers; it will also help pay for study equipment and books.”


Inderpreet Kaur Pejatta (photo available): “The OCR bursary meant I applied for less of a maintenance loan, which means less debt in the future. As well as that, due to religious dietary requirements, I will be doing a lot of cooking, so the bursary will go towards groceries. Overall, the bursary will really help me with living costs and means my parents won’t have to worry nearly as much.”


Karolina “Kaz” Rawdanowicz (photo available):At a young age I moved from my home country, Poland, to the UK with my mother and we had to start our life on our own all over again. Since money had always been scarce during my childhood, my fondest memories were those of community libraries and state-funded after school activities and thus I remain a strong advocate for equal access to everyone, despite their socio-economic status; the OCR bursary is a perfect example of this. Now money will be less of a worry for me going into university and I am able to focus on what I really love. I know that I have received support to fulfil my potential.”



Hita Patel (photo available):The bursary is crucial in helping to finance my 6-year long degree. Medical students do not receive full loans for the latter part of their degree so this money is really helping to ease the burden.”

Zara Richards (photo available): “Being awarded an OCR bursary was an incredible surprise and I’m very grateful for it. It has alleviated a lot of my financial concerns about studying at Cambridge, especially when it comes to the year abroad, which is a key part of a language degree. It will also help me to remain involved with Scouting at university, something that is extremely important to me.”




Holly Dutton (photo available): “The possible financial burden of attending university has always been a dark cloud over my educational aspirations; especially being the first generation to make this big step. I always worried that I would fail to navigate the financial obstacle-course which is higher education. Therefore, the idea that I am now secure enough to focus solely on my studies and my hopeful career in the Law field is completely life-changing for myself and my family. I truly am so grateful for this opportunity and the chance to fully commit to my dream of making a positive difference in the world.”




Imane Jaaouine (photo available): “I am truly grateful to have been nominated for this OCR bursary, and I thank both my school and OCR for helping me believe in my abilities. Having access to this support means I can wholeheartedly make the most of my time studying at the University of Cambridge.”



Tom Rowe: “Without the bursary, I would have had to work during all of the holidays in order to fund my living expenses. The bursary allows me the freedom to dedicate some time to my studies in the holidays instead, as well as the freedom to take up work experience opportunities that may enhance my chances of future employment. The bursary will also allow me to have extra money whilst at university to continue with the hobbies and societies I took part in at secondary school (for example, I loved debating so may join the Cambridge Union) as well as take up new ones. On the whole, the bursary has just relieved a lot of the worry I had about affording university so instead I can hopefully enjoy my time there more.”



Isaac Nicol: “The bursary is very important to me for a number of reasons. Firstly, it means that I am not disadvantaged during my studies by attending Cambridge as opposed to another university where I would be able to get a job to support myself during term time. Secondly, it makes up a significant portion of the gap between my maintenance loan and the estimated cost of living for a year in Cambridge, which greatly reduces the strain not only on myself but on my family, who would otherwise be trying to support me alone.”


Worcestershire school

Magdalena Holloway: “This bursary means a huge amount to me; I can already anticipate that university in general will be stressful, and so the alleviation of any financial worry is a massive relief. The support given to us students through this financial aid is priceless.”


Herefordshire school

Edward “Ned” Loveridge:For me, the bursary means that I don’t have to constantly be worrying about whether I’ll have enough money for food and accommodation. I’ve done my budgeting already and I can comfortably cover all of my costs without stress, thanks to this bursary. With such an intense course and the cost of living alone I was worrying about how I’d manage to balance it all, but this has allowed me to just go and focus on my course.”


Comments from teachers:

Birmingham schools

Commenting on Mohammed Hassan, Harvy Tamber, UCAS Coordinator at King Edward VI Aston School, Birmingham, said: “Mohammed is an exceptional student and has travelled on a journey that developed him into being a superbly eloquent and reflective young adult, a brilliant ambassador for the school and an excellent role model. Hassan’s passion and aptitude for Philosophy is demonstrated outside of the classroom too, in the podcast he runs and articles he has written.” 

Commenting on Adnaan Ilyas, Nicola Hartt, Head of Sixth Form at King Edward VI Handsworth Grammar School for Boys, said: “Adnaan’s teachers encouraged and fully supported his application to Cambridge and we are thrilled for him that he will be going to a university that will allow him to develop his academic potential. This bursary will support Adnaan to make the most of those opportunities and will make a considerable difference at what is an expensive time for any student.”

Commenting on Arzoo Iqbal, Ruth Bennett, Assistant Headteacher at Swanshurst School in Birmingham, said: “We submitted the nomination for Arzoo as she has always gone above and beyond when needed in her role as an ambassador within the sixth form. She always supported others and ensured that everything she did was underpinned by compassion, professionalism and a commitment to continually excel in her academic excellence; blazing a trail for our younger students and demonstrating that with determination and resilience anything is possible. It has been a privilege to have her as a student and we cannot think of a more deserving individual to achieve this bursary.”

Commenting on Nidhi Juneja, Rhiannon Brown, former Head of Year at North Birmingham Academy, said of the school’s first student to receive an offer to study at Cambridge: “From starting at North Birmingham Academy in Year 7 right through to completing her A Level subjects in Year 13, Nidhi was truly an outstanding student. Her dedicated approach to her studies and exemplary work ethic resulted in fantastic GCSE results and then simply exceptional A Level results of three A*s. She was an asset to the Academy, a role model to younger students and always willing to assist at Academy events. Being awarded the OCR bursary will provide Nidhi with a beneficial financial start for the most fantastic opportunity to study at Cambridge University.”


Commenting on Sobaan Mohammed, Harvy Tamber, UCAS Coordinator at King Edward VI Aston School, Birmingham, said: “Sobaan is a student of the highest calibre, who conducted himself with a maturity beyond his years and was a positive role model to younger students. Despite having very modest family circumstances, he has overcome these through hard work and determination, developing into a well-rounded young man who relishes the opportunity to smash through barriers.”


Commenting on Karolina Rawdanowicz, Daniela Davies, Head of Year 13 at St Thomas Aquinas Catholic School and Sixth Form, said: “Karolina's dream was to go to an Oxbridge university and without a bursary her dream could not have been realised. As a school, we wholeheartedly supported her application. Karolina is a gifted and hardworking student and was also Head Girl. She has great leadership qualities and was popular amongst her peers. She led on assemblies and ran a newsletter, which covered topics such as Mental Health, BLM, LGBTQ+.”


Commenting on Inderpreet Kaur Pejatta, Adam Ruhe, Assistant Principal and Head of Sixth Form, Nishkam High School in Birmingham, said: “Throughout her academic journey at Nishkam High School Birmingham, Inderpreet has shown a thirst for knowledge and academic discourse that is rarely seen amongst students of her age. In addition to her studies, Inderpreet made a significant contribution to the life of the school, impressing in an ambassadorial role at school functions, and role modelling our school moto of ‘selfless service’, giving up her time and resources to support those around her, despite her own growing commitments inside and outside of school. I had and continue to have no doubt that she has the required attributes to succeed at Cambridge and her personal qualities will allow her to fit into any team dynamics she is presented with. I’m excited to see what comes next in Inderpreet’s story.”

Coventry schools

Commenting on Hita Patel, Emma Cooke, KS5 Lead for Maths and Hita’s form tutor at Sidney Stringer Academy in Coventry, said: “Since Hita joined Sidney Stringer Academy in Year 7, it has been clear that she was a very talented and determined student. She has always given 100% in all she has done, both in school and outside it, but what makes her different from many other talented students is her humility, and her selflessness in supporting others. I am confident that she will make the very best use of her bursary and will go forward to achieve great success and make a positive impact to the lives of those with whom she comes into contact with.”

Commenting on Zara Richards, Jennie May, Head of Modern Foreign Languages at Bablake School in Coventry, said:

“Zara is one of the most talented linguists I’ve ever had the pleasure to teach and I was delighted that she chose to continue with her study of French at Cambridge. She has always shown an instinctive feel for languages in general, and particularly enjoyed the grammatical aspect of her work. Zara went above and beyond the expectations of an A Level student in terms of the level of work expected from a student outside the classroom. In spite of the huge challenges of the last 18 months, Zara remained committed and focussed to her studies and she should be very proud of the high level of French that she has already achieved – all this without ever having had the opportunity to visit the country!”

Wolverhampton school

Commenting on Holly Dutton, Karanpreet Kaur, History Teacher at Coppice Performing Arts School in Wolverhampton, said of the school’s first student to receive an offer to study at Cambridge: “I nominated Holly for the OCR bursary as she has always been a diligent and tenacious student who possessed an ardent passion for the discipline, and was fully committed to achieving her dream of studying at Cambridge University. As the first member of her family to enter higher education, the potential economic constraints of being able to afford living away from home, and how to manage costs, was an initial concern for Holly. Thus, when she received information about this bursary, I chose to nominate Holly, as I felt she was the perfect candidate to receive additional funding to support her future study of law and to secure her dream.” 

Warwickshire school

Commenting on Imane Jaaouine, Suzanne Griffiths, Head of Sixth Form at Stratford Girls’ Grammar School, said: “Throughout her 7 years at SGGS, Imane has been an outstanding student. She has always shown such positivity and determination to succeed, which made her the perfect choice for a bursary to study at Cambridge. I know that she will continue to thrive and be an asset to the University and I wish her all the very best for her studies.”

Shropshire school

Commenting on Tom Rowe, Malcolm Brown, retired Head of Music at Haberdashers’ Adams Grammar School in Newport, Shropshire, said:

“We nominated Tom because, without extra financial help, he might not have been able to take up his offer of a place at Cambridge and if anyone deserves a chance like this, it’s Tom. He is an outstanding young man in every sense. Tom is academically gifted, creative and humble. He cares deeply about others. He overcame personal adversity whilst at school and achieved outstanding A Level results, but there is so much more to Tom. He was our School Captain through Covid-19 and managed to steer the ship on a steady course through uncharted waters with style and sensitivity, always thinking of others before himself. Tom showed great leadership and so much more whilst he was School Captain. A more deserving and worthwhile case I cannot imagine.”


Commenting on student Isaac Nicol, Richard Simpson, Honours Programme Leader at Newcastle and Stafford Colleges Group, said: “We decided to nominate Isaac for the OCR bursary as we felt the additional financial support would really help facilitate a successful transition to undergraduate life at Cambridge. Isaac is from a modest background but there is nothing modest about his intellectual capacities and enthusiasms, which deserve to be developed in the most demanding academic environment where we feel sure he will flourish. The OCR bursary is a fantastic tool to help ensure that our most academically gifted young people can access opportunities to the very best universities such as Cambridge and are not limited by lack of financial resource. The rigour of undergraduate study at Cambridge will suit Isaac very well and we are confident that great things await him in the future.”

Worcestershire school

Commenting on Magdalena Holloway, Andrew Fitzpatrick, Deputy Director of Sixth Form at Hagley Catholic High School, said: “When I became aware of the OCR bursary, I knew that Magdalena's passion for English and her sheer determination to succeed would make her a perfect candidate. Throughout her time at Hagley Catholic High School, Magdalena has proved to be an exceptional student, particularly in the study of English Literature. She was a deserved winner of the Thomas Campion English Prize run by Peterhouse College and her willingness to self-improve and challenge herself continued, despite the restrictions caused by the pandemic. I know how appreciative Magdalena is to receive the OCR bursary and I am sure it will go a long way to support her wider reading whilst at Cambridge, as well as allowing her to further enjoy her interests in politics and debating.”


Commenting on Edward “Ned” Loveridge, Philp Evans, Head of Chemistry at Hereford Sixth Form College, said: “Lots of students master A-level science with some ease, and Ned is up there with the best of them, but very few of them show his level of enthusiasm or such clear evidence that they are so keen and ready to move on to the next level of understanding. Ned is also very good at explaining things to his peers, which speaks volumes about his own level of understanding. Ned has a real desire to contribute to society, as evidenced by the way he balances his commitment to science with other activities, including drama, to which he brings the same dedication and energy.”




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For more information about the press release, please contact Vicky Anning at 

History of the OCR West Midlands bursary

Now in its 18th year, the OCR bursary helps students in the West Midlands to make the most of their studies at the University of Cambridge. The bursary fund arises out of OCR’s historical association with the West Midlands Examinations Board. OCR, which has had a base in Coventry for 25 years, is part of Cambridge University Press & Assessment, a non-teaching department of the University.

Find out more about the OCR bursary scheme and how to apply at

OCR (Oxford Cambridge and RSA Examinations) is a leading UK awarding body, providing a wide range of qualifications to meet the needs of learners of all ages and abilities. OCR qualifications include AS/A Levels, GCSEs and vocational qualifications such as Cambridge Nationals and Cambridge Technicals. Each year, over half a million students gain OCR qualifications, which are offered by around 6,000 centres including schools, sixth form colleges, FE colleges, training providers, voluntary organisations, local authorities, and businesses ranging from SMEs to multinational organisations.

Find out more