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House builder Barratt Developments Plc has selected a Sheffield Hallam University student who left school because of his disability and didn't expect to go to university as the first recipient of a new scholarship.

The firm is working with Sheffield Hallam's department of natural & built environment, to offer the new scholarship to one deserving student.

The company selected Ben Skinner-Watts, aged 34, as the recipient this year - he is studying for a three year BSc (Hons) Architecture.

Ben will receive £3,000 every year, for three years to support his living costs under the Barratt Developments Scholarship scheme.

The  department for the natural & built environment offers three scholarships a year to students, which are paid for by philanthropic donations made to the University.

The Barratt Developments Scholarship is a new award made in addition to these.

The aim of the scheme is to improve social mobility and give students from disadvantaged and under represented groups the support they need at university.

Ben, a mature student, is the first in his family to go to university. At a young age, he was diagnosed with a hereditary hearing impairment and dyslexia, and did not receive the educational support he needed to progress.

After leaving school at 16, Ben became a self-taught chef, and following that a cabinet maker in his family business. His experiences have inspired him to channel his creativity and academic curiosity into an architecture degree, which he started this year at Sheffield Hallam.

Ben said: "I’m really happy that I made the life changing decision to come to Sheffield Hallam. I chose Hallam over any other university because of its commitment to the environment, and its forward-thinking attitude towards sustainability.

"I’m looking forward to learning as much as possible from my tutors, lectures and fellow students. It will be a great opportunity to meet industry professionals, go on work placements, but also to help the younger students to make the most of the course too, and to view life from a different perspective in regards to our environmental responsibilities."

He added: "I feel honoured and humbled to be selected for the scholarship, and incredibly proud to be representing the Sheffield Hallam architecture department.

"The extra funds will go a long way to helping me be able to concentrate fully on the next three years of the course."

Rob Tansey, group HR director at Barratt Developments Plc, said: “Skills is one of the biggest challenges facing the housebuilding industry. This is one of the reasons for setting up the new scholarship, to help attract more people into housebuilding and the built environment. It’s also absolutely vital that we support disadvantaged groups and people who wouldn’t normally get the chance to study at university. This new scholarship will help do that and we wish Ben all the best with his future studies.”

Dr Luke Desforges, head of Sheffield Hallam's department of natural and built environment, said: "We are delighted to welcome Ben to study here at Sheffield Hallam and help him to achieve his goals in architecture. We offer opportunities to anyone with potential, irrespective of their social background, and we are proud to build on our longstanding partnership with Barratt Developments Plc to provide financial support that enables people such as Ben to contribute his talents to building design. We wish Ben all the very best with his studies."

Sheffield Hallam University is the most prominent university in the UK for driving improvements in education and championing social mobility. The University is a leader in widening access to higher education to people from all backgrounds.

In 2016/17, Sheffield Hallam admitted more students from neighbourhoods with historically low numbers going on to university than any other provider in the UK. In addition, 41% of Sheffield Hallam students come from low income households and the student body is 96% state-educated (against a national average of 90%).

Sheffield Hallam University is a driver of economic growth, addressing long-term challenges, attracting investment and narrowing the skills gap within the region and beyond.

Home to the UK’s largest modern business school Sheffield Hallam works with around 2,000 large and small employers every year and its students, industrial partnerships and research help businesses innovate and succeed.

Sheffield Hallam students undertake over 25,000 placements with employers every year.

Working closely with the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership and other key partners, Sheffield Hallam utilises its research and innovation to support regional businesses whilst attracting new inward investment and contributing to the economic growth of the region.

For press information: Polly Mosley in the Sheffield Hallam University press office on 0114 225 3224 or email