Sunderland University and Foundation of Light launch campaign to keep sporting and academic talent in the city.

Written by on 31st March 2023

Focus on the new initiative aimed at ensuring sports-mad undergraduate students of tomorrow stay on Wearside. 

Sunderland Association Football Club has a long and storied history of producing talented players through their youth ranks and the Foundation of Light is no different. 

The club has a charity linked to them called the Foundation of Light which was setup in 2001, by then Sunderland AFC chairman Sir Bob Murray CBE.  

It has made brilliant strides to help the local community primarily using the power of Football. 

Home of Sunderland AFC, The Stadium of Light


The Foundation is now looking to keep talented young people in the city by linking up with the University of Sunderland, to capitalise on the recent investment to help Wearside thrive again. 

They run a scholarship scheme for 16–18-year-olds to gain their A-Level equivalent diploma whilst playing Football full-time.  

Through both sports and education, the Foundation of Light is hoping to create a clear path for teenagers coming out of Secondary school to lead them into university. 

To do this they are looking to set up a link between themselves and The University of Sunderland to keep their students and players from moving away to achieve their goals by showing that they can achieve them in Sunderland. 

The Foundation will encourage kids from year 9 onwards to commit to a Scholarship with the Foundation before going onto The University of Sunderland by getting the different faculties to go in and talk to the children and their parents to get them to think about staying in Sunderland to earn a degree once their scholarship finishes.  

The university has already done work with the Foundation, but they are hoping to strengthen that link which is mutually beneficial for both themselves and the University. 

Stewart Doyle, the Post-16 Football Lead at the Foundation Light, is heading the programme and had this to say: “The programme is about, in terms of what it aims to do, is to provide opportunities for those 14 – 16-year-olds to learn about what career opportunities are available, within the sports industry and linking in with the university to open that up to other areas that the university support.”

“To show that you do not have to necessarily leave the Sunderland area to get what you need to have those aspirations.”

“The Foundation is looking to encourage their students to go onto Sunderland University in order to further their ability both on and off the pitch.”

The Beacon of Light home of the Foundation of Light a community hub in Sunderland. Credit – Alamy

“With the Foundation of Light and then 18 plus If they move into university as well, so showcasing the quality of coaching that they are going to get throughout their 14–22-year-old. But also, alongside the football, there will be regular workshops delivered by the university.”

“So, for example, there might be people who are interested in becoming sports coaches. And so, we will get university sports coaching courses, tutors to come in and speak to them about what the course entails, what the potential pathways are.”

“We will do some taster sessions and show them what kind of career pathways, not necessarily sports, but it could be anything that the university offer. So, it is not just limited to sports courses, but it could be anything that the university is offering we just want to show people there is a lot of a lot of good potential within Sunderland and not just necessarily as footballers, but as employees as well.”

“We want to try and keep those people local to the area and because they understand the area, they understand the local people and they can make a real difference. So, we do not necessarily want to lose them to other areas of the country. We want to try and really showcase the talent that Sunderland has got really.

“You do not have to leave Sunderland to achieve what you want to do, really, and that’s kind of what we want to. That is what we want to demonstrate.”

“Several of their students who go on to study at Sunderland also continue their footballing careers with at university.”

University of Sunderland, Edinburgh Building, Sunderland. Credit – Alamy

George Pinder went to the Foundation before studying Sports Coaching at Sunderland where he also plays for one of their 1st team along with several others who went to the FoL (Foundation of Light) and believes this pathway sets you up well for university and beyond 

“My experience at the FoL was better than I imagined. Their development in football was great for me and gave me a different way to view football. I developed a lot of life skills that have helped massively in my day-to-day life.

“Yes, in advance they made us think about our next step and had the right people come in with various opportunities which we could take once we finished. With the degree I am completing, the work at the FoL was similar to sports coaching in various ways and technically gave me a head start in terms of the knowledge side of things.

“I’d strongly suggest the pathway through the FoL to university. It benefited me loads and many others who I attended the FoL with. It gives you valuable skills for the life that someone is chasing.”

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