To help create more opportunities for women to study STEM subjects in higher education, Amazon is working with the Royal Academy of Engineering to expand the Amazon Future Engineer bursary scheme.

The updated scheme offers twelve awards worth £5,000 a year for up to four years to students progressing from A level or technical education courses to university for the 2021/22 academic year.

According to UCAS data on university applications, women represent just 16% and 18% of accepted applications to computing and engineering degrees respectively. The new bursaries will help women students who demonstrate a drive and passion for computing and engineering, and an understanding of how innovation and creativity in these fields can help solve some of the world’s greatest challenges.

“At the current rate of progress, to achieve the same number of women as men on degree courses for these subjects would take another 74 years. We simply cannot afford to wait that long.”
Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering

In addition to the bursary, awardees will:

  • Be invited to attend annual networking and training weekends
  • Have access to a community forum providing support from the Royal Academy of Engineering and Amazon
  • Receive news of available internships
  • Receive mentoring and funding to help them progress from university into engineering and computing careers

Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: “The Academy and Amazon share an ambition to inspire and support young people to become the next generation of engineers, and I welcome the opportunity to work together in encouraging more women and girls from all backgrounds to take up careers in engineering and computing.

“We need a greater diversity of views and experiences working within these professions if we are to come up with effective solutions to the many challenges that society faces. At the current rate of progress, to achieve the same number of women as men on degree courses for these subjects would take another 74 years. We simply cannot afford to wait that long.”

“Our new bursary scheme with the Royal Academy of Engineering will help more women become the innovation leaders of the UK” said John Boumphrey, UK Country Manager, Amazon. “More needs to be done to encourage women to enter these fields and break down barriers that students face. The Amazon Future Engineer bursary scheme is just one of the ways that we are helping to increase the representation of women in the UK innovation economy and exciting careers in computer science.”

We spoke with six students who received the bursary this year to learn more about how the award has benefitted their university journey so far.

Genna Holliss – Creative Computing, Ravensbourne University London

A headshot of Genna Holliss sitting in a woodland park.
Genna Holliss, Creative Computing student at Ravensbourne University London

Genna Holliss lives in Basildon with her two young children, who are seven and four years old. Genna explains that parenthood and struggles in school initially held her back from higher education: “From the age of six when I was diagnosed with ADHD I struggled at school. My concentration skills were not very good and I had to really battle every day to come out of school with good grades.”

But Genna’s passion for technology shone through at college, where she had returned to take a course on graphic design. She went on to take part in an Amazon Web Services (AWS) project in partnership with the Career Colleges Trust, collaborating with her local community to build an app designed to tackle knife crime.

That experience inspired Genna to think about careers in tech, and later she jumped at the chance to get involved with opportunities available through Amazon Future Engineer.

“The bursary has made my university experience easier, not having to worry about how I’m going to pay for travel, food and other necessities.”

She chose her course for its blend of technical skills and creativity, and particularly enjoys working with Virtual Reality (VR) applications: “I hope within five years I’m in a stable career as a Junior Software Engineer or Developer – there really aren't many women in these roles, and I’d love to help close the gap.”

“It really means a lot to me that the team at Amazon and at my university are recognising my hard work and achievements. Their belief in me will really help to fulfil my potential.”

Lily Nicholson – Computer Science, The University of Manchester

A selfie taken by Lily Nicholson, an awardee of the AFE bursary
Lily Nicholson, Computer Science student at The University of Manchester

Growing up, Lily Nicholson was always fascinated by science: “When I was a kid I was obsessed with Physics, and I remember wanting to be an astronomer. Now I’m a little older I still enjoy Physics, but have turned my focus to the other subject I loved at school, Computer Science, which I think will be better for my career.”

While studying Computer Science in her GCSEs and A-Levels, Lily realised she had a passion for data science – blending two of her favourite things in computer science and statistics.

“I can see myself pursuing a career in data science as I’ve always loved that since studying Physics, Maths and Computer Science at school.

On accessing the Amazon Future Engineer student bursary, Lily says: “I’m excited to be linked to Amazon. I like the variety to what they offer, and of course the data science aspect of their business.”

“This bursary will also make it a lot easier to take my course, as it means I don’t have to worry so much about getting a job while I study, meaning I have more flexibility to take internships and work experience to develop my portfolio.”

Robyn Greene – Computer Science (Informatics), University of Edinburgh

Robyn Greene an AFE Bursary awardee sitting at a table with a laptop next to her.
Robyn Greene, Informatics student at the University of Edimburgh

Informatics student Robyn Greene moved to Edinburgh from Hampshire in order to follow her passion for tech and to begin shaping her career.

“At school, I didn’t really know what I wanted my future or my career to look like,” she explains. “The Informatics programme at the University of Edinburgh was exactly what I was looking for and allows me the freedom to shape my course as I progress.”

On accessing the Amazon Future Engineer student bursary, Robyn says: “It was a really nice call to receive, and the bursary has helped to make my university life more comfortable. I bought myself a new computer, one that was able to keep up with me and my studies! I’ve also been able to afford all my course books.”

“The biggest advantage of the bursary is that it granted me freedom and has removed any stress about finances. I didn’t have to worry about needing to get a job to support my studies and I could pick a role I was passionate about.”

She feels the availability of student bursaries is a testament to Amazon’s commitments on skills and training: “This offer is more generous than others I’ve seen, and there is zero pressure or expectation that I’ll work with Amazon post-graduation. It’s encouraging to be supported purely as a woman in tech, especially as we are so under-represented in the industry.”

Looking ahead, Robyn’s career is taking shape: “I don’t want to make too many plans right now but working at Amazon seems like a great possibility for my career. I have the opportunity to interview for an internship – so it’s exciting to see what doors will open in the future.”

Mia McMillan – Artificial Intelligence, University of Edinburgh

Mia McMillan in her dorm room at university.
Mia McMillan, Artificial Intelligence student at University of Edinburgh

Mia McMillan is reaching the end of her second year at the University of Edinburgh where she studies Artificial Intelligence (AI).

“I’ve always been interested in computing – it’s a field with no limits on what you can achieve,” Mia explains. “Growing up, I heard a lot about the world of AI and innovation, and that sparked my interest.”

Mia jumped at the chance to get involved with the Amazon Future Engineer student bursary. “The bursary changed my university experience completely,” she explains. “It means I have more time to focus on my studies and online learning. When you go to university you think about the cost of studying, books and other essentials, but there are lots of other necessary expenses which the bursary has helped to cover.”

During the COVID-19 crisis and subsequent lockdowns, the bursary funds also helped her to invest in a tablet that would support her remote learning and digital collaboration. “Amazon even offered a care package which included vouchers for books and an Amazon Echo!”

Looking ahead, Mia’s excited to dive deep into new areas – particularly data science and robotics – to explore their potential to make a real difference in our lives: “I can’t wait to learn more about how technology can be implemented in the future to help people, and I can’t wait to make a difference!”

Zoya Anwar – Computer Science, The University of Manchester

Zoya Anwar standing in a garden in front of a fence
Zoya Anwar, Computer Science student at The University of Manchester

While Zoya’s introduction to university life has been impacted by social distancing and remote learning, she’s optimistic about the future: “Right now we’re getting to grips with the basics of programming, and that really made me feel confident that this was the right course.”

“I’ve always enjoyed the logical and mathematical sides of Computer Science. I loved Maths at school and completed an internship which set me on an exciting career path and showed me the different sides of the subject.”

To support her studies, Zoya was awarded the Amazon Future Engineer student bursary: “I had read about the bursary online and it was incredible to have received that call from the university to say that I had been awarded it.”

“Having access to additional funds through the bursary will mean that I can buy a better laptop that will support the programmes I am working on with the course. Looking ahead, the bursary will also help me when we go back to classroom learning, as it will help cover the costs for travel and accommodation while I’m there.”

“I can’t wait to explore the world of computer science,” she adds. “It is reassuring to know that I will also have the bursary behind me to support me as I carve my path.”

Riddhi Patel – Computer Science, King’s College London

Riddhi Patel standing in front of her fireplace
Riddhi Patel, Computer Science student at Kings College London

Riddhi Patel is a second-year student at King’s College London, studying Computer Science.

Growing up in Romford, East London, Riddhi was always passionate about technology: “I used to watch BBC Click with my Dad when I was 10 years old, and I always loved the mystery of what I was seeing.”

She started in September 2019 at King’s College London and accessed the Amazon Future Engineer bursary after her first year: “I was completely blown away at first as I didn’t realise Amazon offered these programmes. It really came at the right time too, as due to the pandemic my Dad could no longer work and this was causing me stress as I felt pressure to work more.”

“The bursary has allowed me to focus more of my energy towards studying and contributing to group projects, and while I’m still in part-time paid employment, the bursary has shifted my attitude on working from something I have to do, to something I do because I enjoy it.”

Riddhi now has extra time to teach coding to first year students as a teaching assistant, which she loves, and wants to explore further: “Currently, I’m thinking about becoming a technology consultant after I graduate as the role marries my passion for technology with my love of meeting and collaborating with new people.”

Learn more about Amazon Future Engineer.