As IFS study shows poorest students graduating with £57k of debt, he urges others to follow his lead, saying too many City careers are underpinned by advantage as much as talent
A US-born finance chief has been inspired to set up a university scholarship scheme for talented young people studying at a sixth-form college whose students come from some of the poorest areas of south London and Kent.
He is now calling on other finance companies to follow his lead, saying those in the private sector need to ‘step up’ when it comes to offering a helping hand to young people who haven’t enjoyed the same advantages as them.
John Sinik, founder of Metric Capital, the London-based European private capital group, who has lived in the UK for 20 years, says: ‘The problem is that students are coming out of university with a tremendous amount of debt. The result is that there are a lot of very bright young men and women who unfortunately cannot got to university – economically it just doesn’t make sense.’
John says that although tuition fees get most attention, the burden posed by students’ living expenses are too often overlooked. This is where he believes the Metric Scholarships for students at Christ the King Sixth Form College in Lewisham, south London, which are worth £15k over three years, can make a difference.
John first became interested in improving access to higher education for young people from disadvantaged homes began when he became involved American mentoring programme called Big Brother that briefly set up in the UK.
John explains: ‘The programme sought to identify chronically deprived children, typically from a single-parent household, and paired them up with an adult who could help them to develop life skills.’
The programme folded in the UK, but when one of the young people he had met via the scheme, Seni Fawehinmi, went on to study for his A-levels at Christ the King, John decided to set up a scholarship scheme to help young people like him.
Christ the King has some 3,000 students drawn from some of the poorest areas of south London and Kent studying at three campuses. Its intake is truly comprehensive, yet Its academic results are some of the best in London and the South East. Last year, A-level students achieved a pass rate of over 98 per cent, above the national average for the 18th consecutive year, and some 100 students went on to university, many of them gaining places at elite Russell Group institutions.
John says: ‘I work with Christ the King to identify children who would have to forgo education for financial reasons. The scholarship is designed to cover a portion of their living expenses, to try to provide them with money to ease their financial burden.’
He believes that it’s time for those who live a gilded life thanks to stellar careers in the financial sector to examine how they achieved their success: ‘People like to talk about how hard they work in the City. Actually I’m damn lucky. Without the environment in which I was raised I’d have had no idea how to achieve. There’s not enough empathy. We need to do something about it.’
John reminds his colleagues that that their success has often been underpinned by a background of privilege as much as talent.
Although now hugely successful, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for John. ‘I had to borrow to go to a private university - one of the most expensive in America. Then I went on to Harvard Business School; I came out $100k in debt. 
‘I still count myself as extremely lucky to be in an environment where I ultimately succeeded. I don’t forget that it takes an enormous amount of a luck for the pieces to fall in to piece. I try to remind myself of that from time to time.’
Dr Jane Overbury, Collegiate Principal of Christ the King Sixth Form College, says the Metric Scholarships are a game-changer for the three students awarded one each year: ‘For young people whose families don’t have contacts in the professions, developing a relationship with a City company like Metric is invaluable. It gives them access to professions they might not even have been aware existed. It also develops a sense of professionalism and focus which is probably just as crucial as examination success when it comes to careers and success in adult life. And having access to a sizeable pot of money to help with the expenses of university life means that students who might be put off university by lack of financial support can fulfill their potential.’
She adds: ‘The financial heart of the city is just a few miles away. We want our students to be able to take their place in this, their global city. The Metric scheme helps us to advance this in a really significant way.'
John says: ‘I know that helping three kids is not going to change fabric of Britain. But the private sector needs to step up.’
Seni says: ‘I give a lot of credit to John and his family for my success. I come from single-parent home and lost a brother when I was six – that was a defining moment in my life. My mum has done an amazing job and we’re a very close knit. I never had any intention of becoming a “statistic” – unemployed or in prison.
‘I have a younger brother who is now finishing university. He also has his own mentor’
Case study: Trevor Gomes, 20, student at University of Westminster, studying Business Management with Entrepreneurship
Current recipient of Metric Scholarship
‘I’m the first one from my household to go to university
'I was offered the scholarship when I was in the first-year Sixth at Christ the King. The selection is based on excellence and achievement.
'I’m in contact with Metric every term and I have to let them know how well I’m doing academically.
'I’m the first one from my household to go to university.
'The money helps with expenses and books, and wider reading material. It makes a big significant difference, especially with travel expenses.'
At Christ the King, Trevor did A-levels in English Literature and Language, Business Studies and ICT, and also did an AS in Music Technology.

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