'Big Issue' vendors presented with National Extension College bursaries


Mark Siequien and Harry Bowyer have been presented with bursaries by Big Issue founder Lord John Bird and Ros Morpeth, CEO of the National Extension College.

Big Issue vendor, Mark Siequien and former Big Issue vendor, Harry Bowyer, have been presented with education bursaries by Lord John Bird, founder of The Big Issue and Ros Morpeth, Chief Executive of the National Extension College (NEC) to mark a unique partnership between the two organisations.

Big Issue vendor Mark was presented with a bursary to cover the Business Start- up course and ex-vendor Harry was given a bursary to cover his enrolment on the Art Techniques course.

Set up to reach people and places the rest of the education system can’t, the NEC allows would-be learners to sign up for online courses. Based in Cambridge, the distance-learning charity provides course materials and tutors to help students through their work remotely, keeping in touch by email or Skype.

Big Issue Invest, the social investment arm of The Big Issue Group, recently helped finance the work of the NEC via Impact Loans England, a £5 million lending scheme aimed at enabling social enterprises to access loan funding of between £20,000 and £150,000, launched in 2016. The programme is funded through the Growth Fund, which is managed by Access – The Foundation for Social Investment, with funding from Big Lottery Fund and Big Society Capital.

The Cambridge-based education charity the National Extension College has helped thousands of adults and young people across the UK improve their skills and qualifications since it was set up in 1963. NEC delivers its courses online, enabling it to reach students who are unable to attend regular classes for whatever reason, including through illness, disability, or because they are in prison.

Lord John Bird, founder of The Big Issue and cross-bench peer, said: “It really is quite tremendous to be able to be here today and able to offer Mark and Harry the opportunity to access courses that will allow them to follow their passions. This will hopefully lead to positive outcomes for them both.”

He added: “We are very grateful to Ros and everyone at the National Extension College for supporting some of the most vulnerable people in society. We look forward to working together to inspire, support and further our mission to dismantle poverty through the creation of opportunity.”

Ros Morpeth, OBE, Chief Executive of the National Extension College, said: “The ability to learn and to embrace change is the currency of the future. Learning gives you confidence in your abilities and opens up a world of possibilities. We are delighted to welcome Mark and Harry to NEC and look forward to supporting them on their chosen courses. It is an honour to work with The Big Issue Group. We have enormous respect for its work and achievements.”

Big Issue vendor, Mark Siequien, said: “It’s amazing that The Big Issue and the National Extension College have been able to help me with this college course, I have no formal qualifications at all so this course will not only help with my CV but will help me to move on and start a business of my own.

“The support I have received from The Big Issue over the last 6 months has really given me the confidence I need to tackle any problems that may lay ahead of me.”

Ex- Big Issue Vendor, Harry Bowyer, said: “Selling The Big Issue gave me a sense of purpose. I like Bridge Street where I sold it and I was inspired to take many pictures of the Round Church as its proximity to my pitch was perfect. I have lots of pictures of the church taken with a fisheye lens, my favourite.

“Getting the bursary is like having Take That turn up for my next birthday meal. It means so much. Hopefully more people like John will appreciate my work and want to hang my pictures on their walls.”

Founded in 1963 by Michael Young and Brian Jackson as a pilot for the Open University, the NEC is an educational charity which is part of the Open School Trust.

The NEC provides adults of all ages and backgrounds the chance to embark on GCSEs and A Levels, as well as a wide range of vocational and business courses.

Mark and Harry will begin their courses in the coming months.



NEC is a not-for-profit organisation which offers flexible learning opportunities to people who are unable to attend a school or college, and has helped more than 750,000 learners and broaden their education since 1963.

National Extension College (NEC)