It is often reported that students from Northern Ireland achieve some of the best marks in ‘A’ levels compared to students in other parts of the UK. However few of our top students take up the opportunity to study at the leading US universities because they do not have the resources to cover the costs.

With this in mind, the Building Bridges Scholarship Programme has been introduced to give some of these financially disadvantaged students the opportunity to study at elite US universities without the burden of being unable to pay for it.

This first Building Bridges programme was piloted in Derry-Londonderry but has now been extended to Belfast. The programme involves the opportunity to study at the top Ivy League universities – Yale and Columbia. It is planned that in subsequent years the programme will be rolled out to other areas in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and include other top US universities.

Students who are accepted to study and who are in receipt of a full needs-based scholarship from Yale or Columbia, can apply for the additional merit-based scholarship, which means they can concentrate wholly on their studies and not have to work during term time.

For students who are undertaking the maximum four year course at Yale, this merit-based scholarship amounts to approximately £11,000 – which is the amount students in receipt of the full needs-based scholarship must give back to Yale and Columbia, through a work-placement scheme at the University.

The cross-community Building Bridges Scholarship Programme is open to students who are applying to begin study at Yale or Columbia in September 2020.

Co-operation Ireland will manage the Building Bridges programmes, with the support of Yale University, Columbia University and a consortium of interested academics and business representatives.

All successful applicants will be expected to fulfil an ambassadorial role for the Building Bridges Scholarship Programme.