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Welsh student secures one of five UK merit scholarships at prestigious US university

Written by on 13th August 2021

Competing against 2,500 other learners from across the world, Joseph Hinchcliffe, 19, from Llandyrnog, North Wales, is one of five learners from across the UK to secure a four-year scholarship from Morehead-Cain, a US-based merit programme which provides a complete fully-funded educational experience for students of the highest calibre to study at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, one of America’s leading institutions.

Established in 1945, the Morehead-Cain scholarship provides a world-class education, and is one of the most highly competitive university scholarships in America, covering students’ tuition fees, accommodation, meals, books and supplies for the duration of their degree.

Joseph, a former pupil at the Ysgol Brynhyfryd state school in Ruthin, Denbighshire achieved 4A*s in his A levels despite feeling he wasn’t solely academic. Deciding to take a year out to fully research UK and American universities and work hard on his applications, Joseph surpassed his expectations and successfully received offers from Harvard, Stanford, Vanderbilt and University of Oxford, as well as UNC-Chapel Hill.

The talented learner impressed the admissions committee with his academic results, sporting credentials – being a keen football player – as well as his voluntary work outside of school, which included campaigning for changes to road safety legislation where he has been a spokesperson for several nationwide road safety campaigns. He is now excited to further his interest in community and legislative programmes and pursue studies in environmental science and public policy at university.

Joseph said: “I couldn’t believe it when I received offers from some of the best universities in the world. It was an incredibly proud moment for me and my family as I am the first generation to go to university. UNC-Chapel Hill really stood out to me as I love that it offers such a rounded experience, balancing academics with sport and other extra-curricular activities.”

During year 12 and 13, Joseph was one of 10,000 participants on the Seren programme, a Welsh Government scheme designed to support high attaining learners from state schools and further education colleges across Wales to go onto leading universities in Wales, the UK, and overseas, regardless of their background. Learners have access to a range of online subject-specific events and study experiences, designed to stretch and challenge their academic development and build core skills to help them compete equally with their peers in a global setting.

After starting year 12, Joseph attended Seren’s cohort launch event in Newtown and had the chance to meet with representatives from a range of Welsh, UK and international universities.

It was also through Seren that Joseph was introduced to the US-UK Fulbright Commission, which is home to the EducationUSA team for the UK. Offering free, unbiased advice, EducationUSA provides guidance and a range of resources and events to help students all over the UK apply to US universities. The organisation has partnered with Seren to ensure that Welsh students know what opportunities are available to study in the US.

Advisors in the team helped Joseph apply to American universities and secure the renowned scholarship with Morehead-Cain. Joseph also attended EducationUSA’s USA College Day, where he was able to meet with admissions officers from the universities he applied to, including UNC-Chapel Hill.

Rowena Boddington, an EducationUSA advisor and Director of Advising and Marketing at the US-UK Fulbright Commission said: “I first met Joseph at the Seren Conference in 2019. He was driven and interested, and I immediately thought of the Morehead-Cain scholarship. Joseph embraced the process of applying to the US – including the quirks and differences to the UK system – and worked hard throughout.

“I was delighted to connect him up with the Morehead-Cain scholarship and thrilled for him when he won. Joseph is going to have lots of brilliant experiences over the next four years, and exemplifies why the Seren programme is so valuable. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Seren moving forward to help more Welsh students apply to US universities.”

Chuck Lovelace, Executive Director at the Morehead-Cain Foundation, added: “Joseph brings a unique set of talents and experiences to the Morehead-Cain Program and we are looking forward to supporting his endeavours and witnessing his impact, both on campus and beyond, over the next four years. Seren is an important pipeline for attracting and bringing top students and future leaders from the United Kingdom to UNC-Chapel Hill through our scholarship.”

The Seren programme forms part of Welsh Government’s aim to reform education over the next five years to ensure educational inequalities narrow and standards rise. Earlier this year, Welsh Government announced that it would be establishing an International Learning Programme for Wales designed to provide Welsh learners and staff with international experiences to improve their education and cultural awareness, as well as act as ambassadors for Wales overseas.

Education and Welsh Language Minister, Jeremy Miles

Jeremy Miles, the Minister for Education and the Welsh Language, said: “I’d like to congratulate Joseph for his success in securing the Morehead-Cain scholarship, and his acceptance at UNC-Chapel Hill.

“Our Seren programme was designed to help young people like Joseph to go on to study at the best institutions in Wales, the UK and across the globe – particularly through partnering with organisations such as the US-UK Fulbright Commission.

“I’m very pleased Joseph was able to find the support he needed from the programme, and wish him the very best as he looks to continue his studies and commence his career.”

Since 2016, as part of its international activity, Seren has worked with a number of international institutions and organisations providing scholarship opportunities for learners to attend highly competitive summer schools in the US, such as Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS) and the Harvard summer school programme, to broaden their horizons and academic development.

Once he completes his degree, Joseph plans to study a Masters in Law and pursue a career in environmental policy or law, and hopes to return to Wales in the future.