Aspiring barrister raises £65,000 to realise Cambridge Uni law course dream

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By Adam Mawardi on

‘I’m absolutely over the moon!’ Dylan Kawende tells Legal Cheek

Photo credit: Dylan Kawende

An aspiring barrister has crowdfunded £65,000 to cover the full costs of studying law at the University of Cambridge.

Following a successful fundraiser, Dylan Kawende will begin the two-year Law with Senior Status (SSL) course at Cambridge’s St Edmund’s College this October. According to his crowdfunding campaign page, the money raised will pay for his £40,000 course fees and £20,000 accommodation and living costs.

“I’m absolutely over the moon!” the 23-year-old tells Legal Cheek. “Words cannot capture the level of gratitude I’m feeling towards the people who’ve supported my campaign.”

For Kawende, who studied history and philosophy of science the University College London (UCL), graduating with a 2:1 last year, this marks the end to his year-long campaign, ‘#GetDyl2Cambridge’.

In June 2019, Kawende initially set out to raise £66,000 in just eight weeks, in time for an October start. As reported by Legal Cheek at the time, Kawende explained how the postgraduate course wasn’t covered by student loans, and the scholarships available through the Inns of Court weren’t enough to cover the full cost. Meanwhile, Cambridge’s competitive scholarships are only available after students enrol in the autumn — by which point it’s too late.

Unable to reach his ambitious target in time, Kawende deferred his start-date and re-launched his fundraising campaign. Undeterred, the bar hopeful set a new target: to raise £60,000 by July 2020. If he couldn’t raise the funds by this date, Kawende’s Cambridge offer would be withdrawn.

The bar hopeful has now exceeded this target, raising over £65,000 through 1,400 donations since September. While a combination of family, friends and religious faith kept Kawende going during the challenging campaign, he stresses the importance of backing yourself.

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“I needed to have the self-belief and the tenacity to keep reaching out to donors and influencers even when it seemed like I’d hit a wall. My campaign experienced various peaks and troughs and it was important that I didn’t become discouraged during those dry periods,” he tells Legal Cheek

Kawende, the British-born son of two Rwandan genocide refugees who emigrated to the UK, cites the mishandling of the highly publicised Stephen Lawrence case as the inspiration for pursuing a career at the bar. In 1993, Lawrence, a black teenager, was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack by a gang of white youths in south east London.

The wannabe barrister also believes that the Black Lives Matter movement helped his cause. “I believe a lot of my supporters care about #BLM and recognise the need for systemic change,” says Kawende. “I made it clear from the outset that I’m motivated to pursue law primarily because I’m interested in becoming a steward for positive social change. To achieve this kind of change will require a plurality of actions above and beyond protests.”

Kawende believes that such change can occur through greater diversity at the bar, where black people continue to be underrepresented. He continues:

“Representation at bar matters now more than ever because barristers and judges are custodians of the law and exercise influence over the public good. To govern a society as diverse as Britain requires us to draw on the lived experiences of its diverse people.”

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