12 July 2018

From tackling student poverty, to giving students the opportunity to pursue career paths they’d never dreamed of, QUT’s award-winning Learning Potential Fund has been making a tangible difference to student’s lives for 20 years.

QUT’s Equity Director, Mary Kelly, established the Equity Endowment Fund in 1998, later becoming the Learning Potential Fund in 2005. Since then, the fund has awarded scholarships and bursaries to more than 15,000 students.

At the time, the recruitment and retention of low-income students was a core issue for the university.

“In discussions with the (then) Vice-Chancellor, it was clear that student poverty was the barrier, especially for retention – students would drop out because of financial hardship.”

In its first year, six students received a bursary of $500 each. Last year, 2,100 Learning Potential Fund scholarships were awarded, totaling over $5 million.

Now, trends show that the retention rate of Learning Potential Fund students is 88 per cent higher than their peers.

“The majority [of students] say that their scholarship made the difference between staying at university or leaving,” Mary said.

“The scholarships have two effects; firstly, it’s practical. It means students can afford education costs and living costs. It makes life less complicated.”

“Secondly, they have a psychological effect; students say they feel special and are grateful that they’ve been chosen. It enhances their sense of belonging and motivates them.”

“It really does have a ripple effect on a family and on society.”

Vice- Chancellor and President, Professor Margaret Sheil, has placed a high importance on seeing the Learning Potential Fund reach its goal of $100 million. In helping to achieve this goal, every donation to the Learning Potential Fund is matched dollar-for-dollar by the university.

“I’m extremely proud of QUT’s strong culture of philanthropy, and I’m invested in seeing this success continue,” she said.

“The fund is the driving force behind the largest staff-giving program in the university sector."

“It is the only fund of its scale in Australia that is perpetual, and among the largest in terms of the dollar value of needs-based scholarships awarded each year.”

To celebrate 20 years of the Learning Potential Fund, QUT will be hosting a Gala at the end of July to honour those who have generously donated over the years, and share some of the inspiring stories of students who have benefited from the scholarships.

You can make a gift to the Learning Potential Fund here.

20 years of the Learning Potential Fund at QUT