New scholarships to be offered at Cambridge University -

Parasol Foundation Scholarship programme with Murray Edwards College




United Kingdom
Professor Hiranya Peiris on her own is sitting in the Northumbrian telescope
Garden view of Murray Edwards College
Roof glass of Murray Edwards College
Internal courtyard of Murray Edwards College
Internal courtyard of Murray Edwards College

We’re reaching for the stars with the establishment of a new Parasol Foundation Scholarship programme with Murray Edwards College so talented female students can study astronomy and astrophysics at Cambridge University.

The first intake of female students will be in the academic year 2024-2025. Three promising female applicants will be offered a fully funded place to study for a Master’s degree in Astrophysics, an MPhil in Astronomy or the new MPhil in Planetary Science and Life in the Universe.

Students will have the benefit of being inspired by trailblazer Professor Hiranya Peiris who is the first woman to be appointed to the prestigious Professorship of Astrophysics (1909) at Cambridge in its 115-year history, taking up the post in October 2023. She is also a current Fellow and alumna of Murray Edwards College, with a strong commitment to widening access to Cambridge. Together with College President Dorothy Byrne, she is determined to break down the systemic barriers that hold women back from achieving their true potential.

Murray Edwards, formerly known as New Hall, was chosen for The Parasol Foundation Scholarships because it is a college for women with a proud record of educating women in STEM. In Astrophysics alone, the College’s distinguished alumni include Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, discoverer of pulsars, and Katherine Blundell, Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Oxford. Its architecture makes it stand out too as it was designed by Champolin Powell and Bon before they went on to create the landmark Barbican Centre in London.

Despite the College’s track record, evidence shows that women are still in the minority at Cambridge when it comes to studying most STEM subjects, notably Computer Science and Mathematics. At the university overall, there is an even gender split among undergraduates, but in the 2022 intake (the most recent for which figures are available) women made up just under a fifth of computing and maths students, and took only just over a quarter of Engineering places.

We hope that now with our help those numbers will improve and a new generation of women will follow in the footsteps of these brilliant female scientists.

Professor Hiranya Peiris

We were lucky enough to be in the audience to hear Professor Peiris give her first lecture in her role as 1909 Chair of Astrophysics. You can marvel at the breadth of her ambition here As the concise title suggests Decoding the Cosmos she aims to unlock the secrets of the universe and make a movie of it. We hope we’ll have a front row seat for that one too.