Welcome to my campaign.
My name is Dylan Kawende and I've received an offer from Cambridge University to read Law with Senior Status (SSL) starting this October.
SSL is a two-year academic law degree for students who hold a first degree in another discipline. SSL is Cambridge University's equivalent of the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL).
The application process was competitive and demanding. Cambridge receives around 17,000 applications per year and only 1 in 5 applicants secures a place. I had to submit written work, participate in two interviews and complete a legal aptitude test. Additionally, I had to demonstrate consistently high grades (i.e. mostly 1:1s) and a commitment to the law to receive the offer.
Law conversion courses are not entitled to student loans. Although I've applied for the Black Heart Foundation Scholarship and the Lincoln's Inn GDL Scholarship (worth around £10k each), both scholarships are neither sufficient nor guaranteed. I can only tap into Cambridge scholarships (which are also competitive) once I'm a registered student i.e. in autumn, and by then it'll be too late. I have no alternative, therefore, but to crowdfund (please see below for the breakdown of the costs).
I have until 31 July to provide financial guarantees (i.e. pledges of support on Crowdfunder) to Cambridge otherwise my offer will be withdrawn.
Please donate whatever you can. You may also donate offline. I'm currently negotiating with investors about potentially funding the entire degree and have applied for 3 internships (as of 16 June 2019). I'll keep you updated. Every donation will receive a special thank you note.
Thank you so much for your support!
Caption: Dad (left) and Mum (right) in their late twenties
Caption: Dad (left) and Mum (right) as seasoned parents
I’m the British-born son of two Rwandan Genocide refugees. From a young age, my parents inculcated in me the values of resilience and ambition. My father, who was offered a place at Cambridge University to read Electrical Engineering but did not have sufficient funds to accept the offer, fostered my intellectual appetite by encouraging me to read widely. He also ran a charity that taught non-natives IT skills, which consequently instilled into me a desire to pursue a career that had a moral purpose.
My mother motivated me to develop my Christian faith. She has always been a wellspring of inspiration, comfort and love, in spite of all of the adversities she has faced. My mother lost most of her mother's side in the Genocide during a series of attacks by Tutsis, including her grandmother, Nyirande, aunties and uncles and baby cousins. They were brutally murdered in an arson attack in June 1994. Yet my mother remained resolute. (I should add that my grandmother's side was politically neutral). My parents together with my siblings fled from Shangugu (the western province of Rwanda) to Kigali (the capital of Rwanda) in April 1994 with the intention of escaping the country. They eventually sought refuge in the UK in December 1994 (3 years before I was born).
Caption: me in Year 6 having my photo taken for my Westminster Academy ID card
Caption: me in Year 13 having completed my IB exams
I grew up in a low-income household on Harrow Road: a deprived part of inner-city London. I attended Westminster Academy, an ambitious state comprehensive school that encouraged its students to look beyond our limited resources. Despite the numerous times that I was told that I wasn't 'fit' for Oxbridge by a few unbelieving teachers and students (I can recall 4 occasions where this happened), I'm the first in my family to attend a Russell Group university as well as hold a Cambridge offer. Clearly, the naysayers were wrong!
I deliberately chose not to work during my time at UCL, first, to ensure that I would secure optimal grades (my third-year grade average is 74/100) and, second, to hold the various positions of responsibility listed above. The upshot is that I have been unable to set money aside to fund my next degree and there are scant sources of funding available for SSL students given that the degree is self-funded.
BSc History and Philosophy of Science: on track for First-Class Honours, University College London
IB Diploma: 766 in Higher Level subjects (A*AA), Westminster Academy
Positions of responsibility
- President, Young Leaders Panel (YLP), Migrant Leaders - 2018-
- Delegate, UCL Global Citizenship Programme - 2019
- President, UCL Law for All (LfA) - 2018-19
- Events Officer, LfA - 2017-18
- Chairman, UCL Science Technology Studies (STS) Lunar Society - 2017-18
- Delegate, Leadership Programme, Aleto Foundation - 2017
- Delegate, Warwick Congress - 2016-19
- Student Academic Representative (StAR) - 2016-18
- Freshers’ Representative, LfA - 2016-17
- President of Public Speaking Society, Westminster Academy - 2013-15
- Youth Leader and Fundraiser, Victory Youth Group (VYG) and Universal Teen Force (UTF) - 2009-
Awards and Scholarships
- Societies Centenary Colours Award by UCL Students' Union for my '3 years of exemplary service' at LfA - 2019
- LfA was shortlisted by Law Careers.Net for the Best Society for Non-law Students Award for the first time - 2019
- LfA was shortlisted by UCL Students' Union for Diversity and Inclusion Award for the first time - 2019
- STS Best Student Award - awarded in Year 1 by my university department for 'outstanding contributions to the life of the department' - 2017
- Stephen Lawrence Scholarship, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer - 2017-18
- UCL-Baroness Valerie Amos Scholarship - 2016-19
- UCL London Opportunity Scholarship - 2016-19
- Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards, Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) - 2011-15
- Awarded ‘Champion Volunteer’ by the Diana Award in 2013
- Awarded the Youth of the Year and the Excellence Awards by the VYG in 2013 and 2015 respectively in recognition of
- my outstanding contributions to the VYG’s expansion across the country (we are now in 32 locations);
- the leadership I provided to a team of 20-30 young people in my designated branch for five years while securing top grades.
Caption: The Global Citizenship Address and Call to Action
I’m driven to succeed at Cambridge, notwithstanding the financial challenges. I have three reasons for this.
Caption: my poster for the Science, Art and Philosophy module at UCL STS
First, I’m committed to investigating and interrogating criminal, digital and climate justice as a legal academic and research fellow before training as a barrister. To paraphrase Philip K Howard (2001) and Virginia Eubanks (2018), it is my view that innocent blood is being shed at the altar of neutral justice and oppressive algorithms. I feel it is my civic duty to plead the cause of the oppressed. I want to make an original contribution to knowledge by pursuing a combined PhD in Law and STS akin to Professor Sheila Jasanoff. Jasanoff has done groundbreaking work on the ethics of technological innovation and the governance of emerging technologies using her combined expertise in Law and STS.
I have already begun writing essays and blog posts on these topics.
Second, I’m committed to the Bar. This is because, first, I’m driven by the prospect of a career as an advocate. Second, I’m excited by the broad variety of work and opportunities offered at the Bar. Support for my first reason comes from the fact that I have held positions of responsibility that have required me (1) to demonstrate public speaking skills, (2) to perform rigorous research and analysis and (3) to display leadership and teamwork skills.
Caption: LfA Committee 2018-19 looking epic
Caption: LfA shortlisted for LCN Student Law Society Awards
As President of UCL Law for All (LfA), I had to deliver a persuasive speech before an audience of 30-40 students and field difficult questions from LfA members to secure the position. Further, I participated in the LfA Mooting competition. As the Junior Counsel representing the appellant, I spent three days researching and drafting my skeleton argument using relevant case law and books on contract law. Moreover, I personally secured four new sponsors: Clifford Chance, Shearman & Sterling, Herbert Smith Freehills and the University of Law after a series of negotiations in summer 2018. In total, LfA secured an unprecedented total of 19 sponsors and hosted 20+ panel events and skills workshops. Consequently, LfA was shortlisted by Law Careers.Net for the Best Society for Non-law Students Award and by UCL Students' Union for the Diversity and Inclusion Award for the first time.
Caption: co-hosting the AB Gala Dinner in 2017
In July 2017, the Amos Bursary (AB) hosted a weekend academic conference where the scholars were tasked with devising a proposal for an integrated campaign. We had to pitch our proposal to a panel of judges in a Dragon’s Den-like style. Out of four groups comprising ninety scholars, my group successfully pitched a proposal for a campaign to raise awareness of prostate cancer to McCann, a leading advertising agency.
Caption: posing with fellow YLP panellists and Elham Fardad, founder of Migrant Leaders
As President of the YLP at Migrant Leaders, I sit on the Advisory Board to influence their strategy. I advise senior professionals at leading firms on key decisions concerning diversity. And I write articles on the challenges faced by first- and second-generation migrants.
Caption: posing for my Stephen Lawrence Scholarship profile in Freshfields' London office
As a Stephen Lawrence Scholar, I had the opportunity to shadow Sarah Hannett, Matrix Chambers. What I took away from this experience was the Bar’s greater emphasis on advocacy and legal analysis and research. This was something that I found particularly attractive. I think that these two elements can sometimes be lacking in the solicitors' arm of the profession, which is what has ultimately swayed my decision.
Support for my second reason comes from my interest in commercial dispute resolution. There are two reasons for this. First, I’m interested in the role that barristers play in providing written and oral advocacy for clients in banking and financial services and technology, including social impact entrepreneurs dealing with issues close to my heart. This is because I’m interested in the interaction between business and law and the potential of commerce to empower the ‘untapped’ (otherwise known as the ‘disadvantaged’ or the ‘underprivileged’). I have begun taking practical steps to develop my commercial fluency and advocacy. For example, my experiences at Freshfields and Goldman Sachs Legal have taught me the importance of assessing the commercial implications of every legal matter.
The group projects at Freshfields and Goldman Sachs Legal required me to keep abreast of current affairs, with a particular focus on issues where commerce, law and politics intersect. Additionally, my written and oral skills were imperative. This is because I had to distil complex ideas like the trading lifecycle of an FX trade and present them simply to a lay audience. In the same way, barristers are expected to distil legalese to lay clients and judges.
Second, I’m excited by the scope for independence and teamwork. I’m aware that as a junior barrister, my role will involve document analysis, legal research, drafting court documents and providing assistance to senior barristers leading up to and during trial. Even though barristers are responsible for their own cases, there is scope for teamwork since there are instances where barristers and solicitors work together.
Caption: some of my heroes and heroines
My time at the AB, Freshfields and Migrant Leaders has raised my aspirations and given me greater confidence to overcome adversity. All three organisations have provided me with the opportunity to meet the likes of Annette Byron, Farah Ispahani, Baroness Valerie Amos, Colleen Amos, Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Matthew Ryder QC, Lord Michael Hastings, Elham Fardad, René Carayol, Dr Yvonne Thompson CBE, Veronica Martin, Daniel Taylor MBE and Sir Ken Olisa, to name a few. Their stories inspire me to pursue success whatever it takes and to give back to my community always.
Omni Lawyer: YouTube Channel
My forthcoming YouTube channel will have four aims. First, I will investigate ways that knowledge in all fields of inquiry in all parts of the world (hence ‘Omni’) can address all of the major challenges faced by our society e.g. climate justice, inequality, epidemics, governing emerging technologies. Knowledge looks different in different parts of the world though we're all connected by our shared humanity. I fundamentally believe that the spread of knowledge through innovative and pluralistic means will pay miraculous dividends for justice.
Caption: climate change threatens everyone and the countries least responsible for it suffer the most. This is unacceptable.
Second, I wish to promote the ethos of Global Citizenship that I have acquired as an IB Diploma student and more recently on the UCL Global Citizenship Programme (GCP).
Caption: My GCP Family. We investigated water shortage in South Africa
Caption: I've learned more in 2 weeks than some learn in a lifetime. This needs to change.
I will do this by running a ‘How to [insert skill] like a Cambridge Student’ video series that will provide engaging and accessible advice on the core skills and mindsets required to engage with our biggest global challenges. These skills include critical thinking, negotiation, productivity and student leadership and diplomacy. The series will feature interviews with fellow Cambridge students, Cambridge researchers along with students and experts in other institutions with whom I have had the opportunity to interact.
Caption: Me posing outside my student apartment attempting to look solemn yet inspiring
Third, I will discuss my experience of applying to and studying at Cambridge and UCL. I hope to inspire more applications among the untapped by highlighting some of the challenges we face and the corresponding countermeasures available to us. While I recognise that those from the untapped are not a monolith, I submit that many of our experiences are analogous and that there’s an urgent need for us to shape the conversation around, for example, black history, hyphenated-identities, and the mythologies of former empires.
Fourth, I hope to improve the public understanding of the UK's justice system through legal communication in the spirit of The Secret Barrister.
State school students have limited resources. YouTube is a free resource that I will exploit to bridge the knowledge gap between those who have the privilege to attend elite institutions and those who do not. This has been my #dream since I was told, in implicit and explicit terms, by numerous private school students and teachers from privileged backgrounds at an MUN back in Year 11 that state school students were "inferior". This may seem arbitrary but had I not had #resilence, those words could have crippled me. Those words could have thwarted me from #forgingmyownpath.
There are those who use their privilege to promote #virtue. And there are those who use their privilege to promote #vice. I've been fortunate enough to be around the former. Other state school students have not. I will NOT stand for this for I am my #brotherskeeper. I want to open up the doors of Cambridge as far as possible because there are so many among the untapped who are more than capable of studying here but lack the moral support. This should be the responsibility of teachers and others in fiduciary roles and positions of power. But, unfortunately, there is a silent epidemic in the state school system that our leaders have neither the moral will nor the moral courage to address. I’m more than happy to fill that role in my capacity as a #lawyer and #youngleader.
Our leaders fail to see how the dismal state of the state education is connected with #Brexit, with #criminallaw, with #climatechange, with #Ebola, to name a few. Many of our leaders are content with their local commitments, not realising that the entire world is our backyard. This is not the spirit of #integrativepluralism. Many of our so-called #championsofdemocracy have yet to even give a sympathetic hearing to the warnings of the #SecretBarrister. This is not the spirit of #globalcitizenship. I will NOT stand for it.
The Da Vinci Project
The Da Vinci Project is aimed at anyone who wants to be a polymath, or at least something approximating to a polymath again with the aim of tackling the world’s greatest challenges. I'm still working on the details.
The Three Pillars of My Life
I love my family!
I love dressing up, hanging out with friends and having engaging conversations!
I love giving back!
All Three Pillars have contributed to my ambitions as a future leader.
Breakdown of costs
Caption: Financial info - Cambridge charges a University and College fee
Caption: Sources of Finance - the original deadline was 30 June but I pleaded for an extension