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The Laidlaw Programme

I’m Lauren, an English Studies student, and I am just about to complete the ‘Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholarship as part of the Laidlaw Foundation.’ This is a research and leadership Programme that spreads across two years of an undergraduate degree. The Laidlaw Programme exists across the world, and students from Durham University have the opportunity to participate. A group of around 25 students were chosen from Durham and we worked together on various leadership and teamwork activities throughout the programme. There are two elements – research and leadership. The specific structure of the Scholarship Programme alters each year, but it would likely be structured as one summer researching a topic of your choice, and another summer practicing and learning more about leadership either in the UK or internationally. Throughout the two years, there were plenty of opportunities for networking with experts in the field and other students, as well as learning more about leadership. You can find out more about the Laidlaw Programme by visiting this website

The structure of the Laidlaw Programme was slightly different for me than it will be for you, but the fundamentals are the same. From the beginning of the programme, I worked with a Durham University Professor who supported me with my ‘research.’ This was a really cool opportunity to get an insight into how research works and work collaboratively with an expert in a topic that I am really interested in. For my research project, I initially chose to research the effects of Children’s Literature on primary school students in England, comparing this to the education system in Ghana. Through the Laidlaw Programme, I had planned to visit a school in Ghana in the second summer.

However, due to Coronavirus, this was not possible. I changed my research topic from last summer to look at ‘How the Coronavirus pandemic affected attitudes towards work/life and how have people acted in response to change?’ I have been really fortunate to have been able to speak to undergraduates and postgraduates who have kindly volunteered their time. I then used the data from these interviews to create a research report explaining my findings. My experience talking to different people about their experiences of coronavirus this summer has shown me that I really enjoy conducting interviews and has helped me narrow down my career aspirations.

The Laidlaw ‘big group’ at UCL

The Laidlaw Programme team also organises an annual conference in different host universities for Laidlaw Scholars across the world. My cohort had the opportunity to spend a weekend at UCL, which was really incredible. In the weekend conference, we learned about other students’ research, listened to presentations about leadership by experts in their field, and had the opportunity to discuss our own interests with students across the world. It was great to hear about all the fascinating projects that other students have been involved with, and explore London!

Throughout this summer, we could participate in a wide variety of online lectures and conferences. A particular highlight for me was Jacqueline Novogratz’s seminar on ‘How to be a Moral Leader’ – it was a super inspiring discussion and gave me a lot of insight into ethical leadership. This is one of many lectures that we had the opportunity to attend, and the topics vary a lot, so they appeal to everyone!

The Laidlaw Programme has been an invaluable experience for me and I would really recommend applying at Durham University. I believe that I have met some lifelong friends in the Durham cohort, who I have met because of the events that the Laidlaw staff have set up for us. The Laidlaw Programme has provided us with so many opportunities: the leadership training days have been fascinating for learning about different career paths, wider opportunities and other people’s experiences. The research element has also been really interesting for developing my interests in any topic.

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Lauren Powdrell

Hi, I'm Lauren, a third-year student studying English Literature. I am in Hatfield College which I really like, especially because of its location in the city centre. I am currently on a year abroad in Prague.
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