Ben Cowen Scholarship

The Ben Cowen Scholarship supports undergraduate students enrolling in a Bachelor of Arts degree whose families migrated to Australia from a non-English speaking background and who have faced obstacles in their access to education.

The Ben Cowen Scholarship is named in honour of the late Ben Cowen, who died tragically in 2017, leaving behind his wife and three young children. Ben was a highly respected businessman, entrepreneur, adventurer, traveller, community leader, devoted family man and friend. He was a graduate of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Melbourne, and the youngest child of the 19th Governor-General of Australia Sir Zelman Cowen and Lady Anna Cowen.

Creating equitable pathways to education – and opportunities for life

The Ben Cowen Scholarship supplements and strengthens the University of Melbourne's commitment to access and equity in education, specifically its Access Melbourne program – a special entry scheme designed to help undergraduate students overcome obstacles, gain access to education and hence reach their goals. The Ben Cowen Scholarship is specifically directed to Arts students, with a preference for those from a non-English speaking and migrant or refugee background; these are students who we know face a specific set of challenges, but who have so much to contribute to our society.

One of the first students to receive the Ben Cowen Scholarship was Hibatallah Adam, who commenced her BA degree in 2018. ‘Hiba’ experienced many interruptions to her education, escaping the civil war in Libya in 2011 and spending time in a refugee camp before relocating with her family to Australia. A recent graduate, having successfully completed her BA majoring in criminology, politics and international relations, Hiba reflected:

As a refugee I faced many difficulties and financial obstacles. However, with the help of my teachers, I was able to finish VCE with great results that got me to the University of Melbourne. The Ben Cowen Scholarship made me feel supported and acknowledged. Coming from a low socioeconomic background,
it helped pay for fees, buy course materials, and enabled me to take time off work to focus on my studies during exam periods. Being awarded the scholarship has been a privilege that I continuously acknowledge by staying motivated… I want to become a changemaker and participate in policy making.

The Ben Cowen Scholarship enabled Hiba to achieve her goal of enrolling in a Juris Doctor in the Melbourne Law School.

Hibatallah Adam
Hibatallah Adam

Building Ben’s legacy into ongoing support for students

To honour Ben’s legacy, we wish to build the Ben Cowen Scholarship as a sustainable, and ongoing program that provides long-term support for many more students who have overcome adverse circumstances.

Ben understood his privilege, but also well understood the challenges faced by those whose own circumstances were not so fortunate.  Known for his optimism, kindness and support for strangers, Ben has inspired family and friends to listen to and then act on what might be done to help others.

At the University of Melbourne, we know that scholarships inspire and promote self-belief in our students.  We also know that scholarships are increasingly needed to support those who struggle financially through no fault of their own.  We want our campus to reflect the diversity of life in Australia and we want to equip those students to participate fully in our society.

The Faculty of Arts proudly believes in the benefits – both for career and for life – of a Bachelor of Arts degree, in a world where skills in critical and creative thinking, communication and cross-cultural understanding, and compassionate regard for the needs of others are more in need than ever before.  We create pathways to business, government, law, media and the not-for-profit sector - to name but a few of our graduates’ destinations.

Making your contribution

The Ben Cowen Scholarship changes the lives of students by providing the opportunity for them to invest fully in their education through the support provided by an annual stipend.  The stipend is awarded for the duration of their undergraduate degree, providing a source of stable and reliable support.  It is the kind of support that Ben hoped to give others, and that together we can give in his name.

Our goal is to award more of these life-changing scholarships. We ask you to consider joining us in this endeavour.