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Richard Stapley - Richard Stapley

Member Spotlight: Sir Richard Stapley Educational Trust

Sir Richard Stapley was a British businessman, politician and philanthropist active in the late 1800s / early 1900s. Not having a university education himself, he was keen to enable others to do so, and more generally to promote educational achievement.

In January 1919, in failing health, he founded the Sir Richard Stapley Educational Trust using funds from his capital investments. The first trust meeting was held in the same month, awarding the first four grants: two of £20 and two of £10. Sir Richard died on 20 May 1920 at the age of 77.

Last November, we celebrated our centenary. The Trust has helped countless students over the last hundred years. It remains today an expression of Sir Richard’s lifelong concern to advance educational and philanthropic causes.

Who do you support and what support do you offer?

We offer small grants towards tuition fees and living costs for students aged 24 or over of proven academic merit, and in financial need, who are pursuing further degree qualifications. Open to students from all countries, applicants must be resident and studying in the UK. The Trust supports postgraduate degrees in any subject, as well medicine or veterinary sciences taken as a second degree. Our annual grant round opens in January and closes once we have received 300 eligible applications. Sadly, the demand is so great that we generally reach our limit within a month.  In a typical grant round we make about 150 awards and commit around £150,000.

What makes you special?

We are a small trust, and one of very few devoted exclusively to enabling access to higher education for those with demonstrable academic excellence who might be denied educational opportunities because of financial hurdles.

Can you give an example of someone you have helped?


Truc Pham is an Imaging Sciences PhD student at King’s College London. She was entering her third year when she applied for one of our grants. Her research aims to identify specific reagents for Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and fluorescence imaging. The two main applications are for cancer diagnosis with PET imaging and fluorescence-guided surgery, and for non-invasive real-time therapeutic cell tracking.  Thanks partly to our support, she was able   to continue with the final stage of her PhD. She was selected to present her work at the ‘STEM   for Britain’ briefing at the House of Common in March 2019 and at several national and international conferences. STEM for Britain raises awareness of MPs and other policymakers about the role of science.  “Without your help I would have not been able to achieve those milestones”


What is your charity working on now?  

Having just completed our annual grant round, we are considering our strategy for the next five years. We are considering our charitable mission, aims and operations, and thinking about our ‘niche’ in relation to other independent funders focusing on educational disadvantage. 

What issues are of concern to you at the moment?

Like all ACO members, we are concerned about the impact of Covid-19 on the students looking to us for support, and its impact on our trust, including our asset base. It remains to be seen whether we will be able to do what we want, which is to help as many students and at the same level in future years.

More generally, we are concerned about those we are unable to assist, even though they are academically excellent   and facing financial hardship, because of our own limited means. We worry about their ambitions being stifled and the consequent loss to their communities of the contributions they would have made. 

In terms of our operations, we are keen to find a better way to target those who are financially disadvantaged which moves away from unreliable, intrusive and potentially disempowering means-testing at the application stage. We welcome suggestions from other ACO members who feel they have developed fair and reliable ways to target financial disadvantage which maintains applicants’ dignity.

Colin Nee, Clerk to the Trustees