FourFourThree’s Nick Bilton reports on the potential of a technology-based scholarship system for disadvantaged students.
It is an approach to scholarship that could be used by students in many disciplines including arts, humanities and engineering, but also by young people with special needs and those with disabilities.
Fastweb’s website has been downloaded nearly three million times in the last two months.
Its aim is to “give students the opportunity to pursue the higher education they want without having to sacrifice the academic and financial wellbeing of their families”, its co-founder, Daniel Stansfield, told FourFourtwo.
The project was initially founded in 2016 by Stansford and two other academics, James Fennell and John McVerry.
Fastnet, a new platform launched by the university in 2017, is based in Melbourne and aims to attract and train thousands of high-achieving young Australians.
Fastweb was founded in late 2016 and is now backed by Google Ventures, Amazon, Twitter and the Australian Taxation Office.
In 2018, it became a founding member of the Australian Accelerator Network (AAN), a consortium of universities, businesses and think-tanks.
FastWeb has been awarded funding from the AAN and is currently working on a research programme.
At its core, Fastweb is a social media platform that connects students with mentors and allows them to search for scholarships.
Students who sign up can then use the platform to search and apply for scholarships to attend a specific school or university.
If selected, the students will then receive a “fastweb” voucher that is valid for one year and will be returned to them after that.
“Fastweb is an incredibly innovative scholarship program that combines a social platform and a digital platform,” Stansfords co-director, James McVernon, said.
It has already taken students from Indigenous Australia, Indigenous and international students, and is working with disadvantaged students in New South Wales and Queensland.
Currently, students can use the portal to search through a range of scholarship options and apply online for a scholarship of up to $100,000.
But there are many other types of scholarships available.
For example, students in the humanities can search for a $15,000 scholarship, or in the arts they can search by topic and apply via their chosen funding organisation.
Stansfield said the university was excited about the potential for a “speed-up” approach to online scholarships.
“I think this is a big opportunity for us, given that we have an excellent network of institutions around the country,” he said.
“We can help them to take advantage of the technology and the community they are part of to make sure they get access to the best opportunities.”
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