‘Activist investor’ makes funding commitment to Black Academic Futures

Monday 26th Sep 2022, 12.56pm

Bluebell Capital Partners has made an initial donation to the Black Academic Futures programme at Oxford University, which will support three scholarships for 2022-entry and a fourth in 2023/24. 

Graduates being supported by the funding commitment from the London-based investment manager include a student who plans to help mitigate the effects of climate change through sustainable and alternative energy sources as a neutronics engineer.

The other 2022-entry scholars include supporting growth and development in Africa and becoming one of Ghana’s leading economic policy practitioners among their long-term career plans.

Image of Bluebell Capital Partners’ two partners, Giuseppe Bivona and Marco Taricco.(Left to right) The firm’s two partners, Giuseppe Bivona and Marco Taricco

Bluebell Capital Partners has become well known as an ‘activist investor’, advocating for Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG); a collective term for a set of standards used to evaluate investments based on corporate policies that impact society and the environment including sustainability.

The firm’s two partners, Giuseppe Bivona and Marco Taricco, have known each other for over 30 years and lead an experienced team whose campaigns have included many that integrate their own approach to ESG and sustainability risks with their investment process.

Partner Marco Taricco said: ‘Oxford University’s Black Academic Futures programme is perfectly aligned with our broader ESG commitment, which aims to drive change and make a difference by achieving concrete, tangible results as opposed to simply stating high level principles. We are immensely proud to make a difference in the lives of the four scholars selected for the program. And count on contributing to their development beyond the financial commitment.’

The scholars

The three graduates whose scholarships have been supported by Bluebell Capital Partners in 2022/23 will be studying DPhil and master’s courses in Economics for Development, Economic and Social History, and Materials.

Head and shoulders image of Gwendolyne Brown Gwendolyne Brown has a strong interest in economic development

Gwendolyne Brown (MSc Economics for Development) said: ‘Obtaining funding through the scholarship has enhanced my passion for philanthropy work and has encouraged me to also help others where I can. I now live in the UK but was born in Ghana, and as a young girl I observed that poverty disproportionately affects women and thus I am acutely aware that the lack of opportunities available for us limits Ghana’s economic potential and productivity. My first hand exposure to such circumstances nurtured my strong interest in economic development. My long-term career goal is to be one of Ghana’s leading economic policy practitioners and to play a fundamental role in shaping the development of Ghana. This scholarship will allow me to explore interesting areas such as Macroeconomic Theory for Development. It has also enabled me to connect with other scholarship students, helping me expand my network, and to access an extensive support system such as access to the mentorship program.’   

Efua Irabor (MSc Economic and Social History) said: ‘My intended research aims to evaluate the influence of pre-colonial religious and cultural values on the management and state of the post-colonial Nigerian oil sector. Being of Nigerian heritage, I am grateful that this scholarship will allow me to expand my interests as well as meet the demands of unearthing and appreciating the complexity of Africa’s economic history and development path. I am grateful to be a Black Academic Futures scholar and I am excited to use the skills I develop whilst at Oxford to benefit my department and contribute to wider society by evincing the pre-colonial legacies in one of Nigeria’s largest industries. I aspire to learn more about the world of finance and utilise the skills I have acquired and consolidated to support growth and development in Africa as well as the global economy. I look forward to beginning my journey at Oxford.’

Lizzie (Dphil Materials) said: ‘This scholarship enables me to forge strong friendships with other scholars during my studies, especially in the STEM field. Through relevant mentorship relating to my chosen discipline of nuclear energy, this scholarship also provides a hands-on and structured way in which I can navigate my early postgraduate career. My future aspirations are centred around the nuclear fusion industry, where I hope to become a neutronics (neutron physics) engineer who can contribute to efforts that bring forward the possibility of functioning nuclear fusion reactors. Therefore, with the skills gained through this programme, I want to help mitigate the effects of climate change by providing sustainable and alternative energy sources.’ 

A significant stage

Black Academic Futures launched in 2020 and set out to offer up to ten UK Black and Mixed-Black graduate students financial support from the academic year 2021-22 onwards. Following its announcement, Oxford saw a 32% increase in applications from UK-domiciled Black applicants for 2021 and an uplift of 25% for UK-domiciled Black and Mixed-Black applicants overall.

We are immensely proud to make a difference in the lives of the four scholars selected for the program

Marco Taricco

Ultimately, 13 scholarships were awarded in 2021. Encouraged by this initial success, the University and its colleges pledged to award up to 30 full graduate scholarships for 2022-23 and subsequent years, and expanded the programme’s support to students studying both postgraduate research and postgraduate taught courses. This pledge has been exceeded for 2022-entry, with 38 scholarships offered.

Scholarships cover course fees and living costs, while the programme includes specific on-course support.

Professor Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education at Oxford, said: ‘Black Academic Futures marks a significant stage in Oxford’s support for graduate students from underrepresented and disadvantaged groups. In recent years, the University has made important progress recognising and addressing the issue of graduate access and specifically the under-representation of Black students in academia, with a broad range of initiatives including scholarships. I am delighted Bluebell Capital Partners has chosen to support Black Academic Futures and our vision of ensuring that finance is never a barrier to educational opportunity or pursuing graduate study at Oxford.’