Dagenham teen denied student loan crowdfunding her degree

Picture: Agnes Harding

Picture: Agnes Harding - Credit: Agnes Harding

A 19-year-old hoping to become the UK’s first black astronaut is crowdfunding her degree after being denied a student loan.

Agnes Harding, of Bosworth Road, Dagenham, gained three As in her A-levels last year and offers to study physics at four Russell Group universities.

But despite living in London since age four, she was told she could not receive student finance as she is classed as an international student.

“I spent a year looking at lots of different avenues through which I could gain funds,” she told the Post. “I was looking at scholarships, sponsorships, anything really.”

Agnes, born in Gambia, had dreamt of exploring space since she was a child. A self-described daredevil, she believes studying the final frontier may solve the problems facing our planet.

“It’s just a fascinating field,” she said. “Cross-disciplinary explorations that use their research to improve life on Earth.”

After Agnes deferred her place at university until she could access funding, her aunt, Sonia, set up an online fundraising page to help make her dream a reality.

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The appeal has raised more than £14,000 towards her tuition fees and living costs since donations opened in February.

“The messages I received from people were really heart-warming,” said the former Robert Clack pupil. “I don’t think people know how much they’ve affected me.”

Such support came as no surprise to the school’s head of sixth form, John Course.

“Agnes or, as she was known to us, Betty, was a brilliant student in every way,” he said, recalling her role on the school council and mentoring younger pupils. “Not only was she academic, excelling at both GCSE and A-Level, she also had an infectiously positive outlook.

“I’m so pleased that Betty is now able to study at degree level and achieve her aspirations. She is an example to all for her perseverance and dedication.”

Now studying at Manchester University, Agnes not been daunted by student life. She started lectures a few weeks ago and has already joined the gospel choir, Christian Union and, yes, the astronomy society.

She has £6,000 still to raise to fund her degree, which she hopes will let her walk among the stars.

To donate, click here.