Oxford University Sets Up Margaret Thatcher Scholarship For 'Future Leaders'

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Oxford University has announced the creation of a Margaret Thatcher Scholarship Trust, which will give young people who
succeed "against the odds" the opportunity to study at the institution.

Somerville College famously refused to honour its former student in 1985, after dons voted to snub the prime minister in protest against her cuts in education funding.

At the time, then-Somerville principal Daphne Park told the Oxford Mail: “You don’t stop someone becoming a fellow of an academic body because you dislike them.”

But opponent Professor Peter Pulzer, of All Souls College, said: “I think we have sent a message to show our very great concern, our very great worry about the way educational policy and educational funding are going in this country.”

On the college's Margaret Thatcher Fund website page, it states: "Somerville has always taken pride in the warm relationship it continues to enjoy with Lady Thatcher".

Ten "Thatcher scholars" will be selected from around the world every year, and the college hopes the first will study at the university by 2015. The college is hoping to raise around £100m to fund the scheme, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Several high profile figures have already stepped forward to back the scholarship and act as patrons, including George Bush senior, Nancy Reagan, Sir John Major and Tony Blair.

Thatcher was the recipient of a scholarship and bursary during her time at Somerville, and, when she was PM, wrote to the college's then-principal to express her gratitude.

Dr Alice Prochaska, Somerville's principal, said she hoped the scholarship fund would help "redress the balance" after Thatcher was snubbed.

"I'm very excited about it. [The trust] is a living memory, it is going to produce people who excel at whatever it is that they decide to do," Prochaska said.

"We want the best and brightest, regardless of background. We want people to succeed regardless of disadvantage. We are not going to limit this to particular subjects, and this programme will be totally without political prejudice."

A day after Thatcher's death in April, Somerville lowered its flag in memory of the leader, who studied chemistry in the 1940s. The college published a tribute on its site, which read: "It is with great sorrow that we have learned of [her] death.

"We are immensely proud to have educated Britain's first - and so far only - female Prime Minister and one of the most internationally significant statespeople of the twentieth century. On this sad day, we pay tribute to the truly pioneering spirit that propelled her to the pinnacle of British political, and public, life."

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