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Stephen Lawrence bursaries flop through lack of interest

Attempts to boost the number of black and ethnic minority architects received a hammer blow this week when it emerged that £18,000 worth of special student bursaries have gone to waste because of a lack of candidates.

In the past two years the University of Sheffield School of Architecture has received just a single application for one of the four three-year bursaries set up in the memory of murdered black teenager and aspiring architect Stephen Lawrence. Last week the school awarded its first £2,000-a-year bursary to Paul Duffus, but it has admitted that it cannot find a candidate for the second bursary.

The news is a setback for the programme, which has been backed by the Prince of Wales and RIBA president Marco Goldschmied. It aims to give disadvantaged students, mainly from black and ethnic minority backgrounds, the chance to begin a career in architecture.

Bursaries are also offered at the Architectural Association in London and schools of architecture in the Caribbean and South Africa. Candidates have been found for each of these.

'This has been very disappointing for us, ' said Sheffield's first year administrator Ruth Morrow. 'I thought it was difficult to get women into architecture, but this is a bigger mountain to climb.'

Sheffield usually has around 10 applicants for each place on its undergraduate course and is hoping to boost the numbers interested in the bursary by running open days and shipping in busloads of sixth formers from schools in local areas. 'It's essentially a difficult target group to get to, ' said Morrow. 'The percentage of black students reaching sixth form is quite low and architecture is seen by them as part of the white, male establishment.'

Plans for the Stephen Lawrence Technocentre in Deptford, a £9 million college to prepare disadvantaged students for degree courses in architecture, have received a boost with a £150,000 Lottery grant to work up a business plan.The architect on the scheme is Arthur Timothy Associates.

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