In December 2020, Birkbeck and Goldman Sachs announced a partnership aimed at reducing the impact of the pandemic for students from BAME backgrounds. The Goldman Sachs and Birkbeck Diversity Fund has now supported 500 Birkbeck students through scholarships, bursaries and emergency hardship funds as well as furthering our work and partnerships in local communities.

Nic Katona, Director of Development and Alumni at Birkbeck, recently sat down with Iain Drayton, Partner and Managing Director at Goldman Sachs, to discuss the partnership and learn more about Iain and his motivation for supporting Birkbeck.

Iain Drayton, Partner, Managing Director at Goldman Sachs

Iain grew up in Cheshire to parents from England and Trinidad. “My father, as a first-generation immigrant to the United Kingdom, saw education as a great ‘equalizer’ and really encouraged me to study hard.” After completing A-Levels in Languages & Mathematics, he went on to study Japanese at the University of Cambridge. Iain acknowledges that his educational experience played a role in ‘opening doors to opportunities in finance.’

“Despite my educational background, I have a strong view that education should not be exclusive. I care primarily about talent and aptitude, and in many cases, people with great talent do not have the opportunity to get the education they deserve.”

Discussing the Goldman Sachs Partnership Committee’s motivation for supporting Birkbeck students, Iain explains:

“Last year we saw the dramatic growth of the BLM movement. The racial equity question was at the forefront of people’s minds, and then the pandemic hit as well. We quickly saw that there was a correlation between those who had been impacted disproportionately by the pandemic, and ethnicity, and by extension socio-economic background. It was at this point my colleagues introduced me to Birkbeck, and I saw your open-minded approach to attracting talent and commitment to supporting students to overcome barriers. As my colleagues and I learned more about this, we started to get really excited because we could see that this would impact peoples’ lives.

“Through our work with Birkbeck, people who are smart and driven are given the opportunity to study and financial barriers are removed, which allows us to develop and broaden the pool of potential talent. It’s not so much about altruism, or socialism. It’s more about ensuring we are surrounded by the best people, in university or in work, because in these situations we can learn so much more.”

“Our commitments are primarily to supporting racial equity and social mobility… for our work in the UK, Birkbeck should sit at the heart of all of these things.”

In June 2021 Goldman Sachs participated in a roundtable with some of the Birkbeck students who benefitted from the Fund, to learn more about the challenges these students face and why this kind of support really matters.

During the meeting, one student, who during lockdown has been looking after her two younger siblings, working as a carer and studying a foundation year course in Philosophy, Criminology & Psychology said: “The compassion and support I’ve been offered at Birkbeck has been fantastic. On top of this, the bursary has helped me support myself and my family during a really difficult time.”

Another undergraduate who received support from the partnership commented, “The bursary means that I can keep paying my bills and keep supporting myself, but most of all it gives me confidence that the College is connected and close to the students’ needs and I can reach them whenever I need to. This bursary gives me the strength to keep pushing forward, one step at a time, and helps me keep faith in all the plans I have for my future.”

On hearing from the students and learning more about their journey to education, Iain remarks upon their ‘resilience and optimism’ and ability to ‘juggle so many things during the peak of the pandemic.’

Looking to the future, Iain concludes: “The real test for organisations is a test of time. It’s not just about reacting, ticking a box and moving on. This is about investing in something, both money and time, to see a project grow and forge a long-term relationship […] If we can establish a foundation, try to impact at scale and overtime build relations between Birkbeck and Goldman Sachs, then there are a number of things that can come out of that.

“Our commitments are primarily to supporting racial equity and social mobility. We are very focused on increasing our ethnic diversity in the firm. Under our current leadership our commitment to these issues is greater than it has ever been, and for our work in the UK, Birkbeck should sit at the heart of all of these things.”

Find out more about how you can support Birkbeck students: