UWE sponsors degrees for Bristol Rugby Academy players

A new partnership has just been signed between Bristol Rugby and the University of the West of England to make sure talented young players do not miss out on a higher education. Bristol Rugby club CEO Steve Gorvett and UWE Vice-Chancellor Steve West shook hands on 24th August on an agreement which gives up to 6 identified academy players the chance to study for a degree whilst continuing with their rugby development.

This is the first time in the West of England that a formal arrangement has linked a University with one of the UK’s leading rugby academies.

The Scholarship scheme which is the brainchild of Academy Manager, Liam Middleton and UWEPerformance Manager Richard Bennett, will see up to six scholarships offered per year to young players who have been identified by Bristol Rugby as having future elite potential and who wish to combine their professional rugby aspirations with academic study.

The Bristol Rugby Academy programme was established in 2001 to identify and develop talented young players who are considered to have the potential to reach the top of the game.

Scholarship players will have access to Bristol Academy training, with players representing the UWE in the BUCS Premier League which will provide them with a quality training and playing programme whilst managing their academic studies.

This years Scholarship students are Mike Wilcox, who captained the England u18 AER team in 2009, Liam Wilkinson, an England u18 AER backrow player. Marco Mama also joins the Academy/Scholarship scheme having played 4 First Team games for Bristol last season whilst still a Millfield schoolboy.

Centre for Sport manager Richard Bennett said, “The partnership with Bristol Academy gives student athletes the very opportunities they need to succeed both academically at UWE and on the field with Bristol Rugby club. The Academy athletes will play for UWE during the BUCS competition and this will really strengthen our 1st XV for this coming season.”

Academy Manager Liam Middleton said, “Having witnessed the success of an Academy/University programme previously, I believe that a Scholarship scheme linked to Bristol Rugby is a crucial part of the Bristol Academy Strategy. I’m pleased that we have been able to link with UWE which provides an ideal academic partnership whilst providing Academy players with a quality playing programme and sports science support. With so many benefits to the scheme I see it as another foundation block in the future success of Bristol Academy and Bristol Rugby.”

George Tavner, Head Coach of UWE Rugby Club, said, "This is a very exciting time for UWE Rugby after our recent promotion to the Bristol University and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Premier League. This partnership will allow aspiring elite performers the opportunity to combine their academic study with their rugby.”