Plaque

A trailblazing educational and social reformer is the inspiration behind an initiative launched at Heriot-Watt University today (February 7).

A fund for female students studying STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) has been unveiled on the 200th anniversary of Mary Burton’s birth.

Mary Burton (1819-1909) was the first female Director of Heriot-Watt College, now Heriot-Watt University and an early proponent of what is now known as the widening access agenda. She persuaded the Watt Institution to admit female students on equal terms to men in 1869, pioneering equal access to education twenty-three years before legislation required Scottish universities to do the same. Mary was also an advocate of access to education for working people which was the founding principle of the institution that is now Heriot-Watt University.

Women continue to be underrepresented in STEM disciplines, and funds like this can remove barriers to participation.

Professor Gill Hogg, Deputy Principal at Heriot-Watt University

Fittingly, the Mary Burton Fund will continue this legacy by offering financial assistance to female Heriot-Watt STEM students wishing to attend conferences or other career development opportunities. Awards can be used to pay for a variety of costs such as conference fees, travel, accommodation or childcare that could otherwise act as a barrier to career development.

The Mary Burton Fund is available thanks to generous donations from alumni and friends of the university.

The application process is now open and will close on Monday 4th March at 9am. Those wishing to apply can do so here.

Mary Burton

Professor Gill Hogg, Deputy Principal at Heriot-Watt University, said: "Mary Burton was a pioneer and her legacy can be seen in Heriot-Watt’s continuing commitment to widening participation. We are proud to celebrate her legacy with the launch of the Mary Burton Fund.

"Women continue to be underrepresented in STEM disciplines, and funds like this can remove barriers to participation.  Mary would have been a keen supporter of women entering STEM careers, it seems a natural extension of the work she did all those years ago.

"We are grateful for the generosity of our alumni and friends who have helped us to remember Mary’s remarkable life as well as provide support for women in STEM careers by contributing to this Fund."

In the future the Fund will provide scholarships to help female students with the costs of studying a STEM subject at Heriot-Watt University.

Alumni and staff are able to support this endeavour either in a single gift or on a regular basis.

The Fund launch is part of a programme of celebrations marking the anniversary. Other activities include a Mary Burton prize, lecture and museum display.