An entrepreneur from Swansea has become the first person from Wales to be awarded the prestigious Knight-Hennessy scholarship since its establishment in 2016.
As one of only 70 scholarship recipients selected from over 8,000 applicants from around the world, Liam Rahman, 29, will pursue an MBA and MA in Education at Stanford University, California, USA, from this September.
The Knight-Hennessy Scholars (KHS) programme is the largest fully endowed graduate-level scholarship in the world, worth over $350,000 per recipient and covering the full cost for Liam to complete both graduate degrees and participate in the KHS leadership programme at Stanford, which is designed to develop the skills of the world’s future leaders.
After completing the programme, Liam hopes to bring back the skills he has developed to support the next generation of young people in Wales to aim high academically, including those on the Welsh Government’s Seren programme – an initiative which Liam works with, aimed at supporting the country’s brightest learners to achieve their full academic potential and go on to leading universities in Wales, the UK, and overseas.
To be shortlisted for the KHS scholarship, Liam first applied successfully to the world’s most selective MBA programme at the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB), before being assessed on his academic and professional successes as well as through various essays, presentations, interviews and group discussions observed by three current scholars. Scholars are also selected for their civic mindedness, independence of thought and purposeful leadership – three attributes seen by the admissions team as critical to the success of future global leaders.
“I couldn’t believe it when I got the call to say that I had been accepted onto the KHS programme. It was such a surreal experience receiving the news with a call from John Hennessy – the former President of Stanford University and current Chairman of Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company – while I was walking my dog on the beach in Swansea!”
Liam has an impressive CV, having kickstarted his entrepreneurial journey aged just 17, when he co-founded Equal Education Partners – an education recruitment services company – with his mother.
After setting up the company, he went on to complete an undergraduate degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at Yale-NUS (Singapore) and Yale University (USA) and worked in the financial services industry at BW Group and Goldman Sachs. He then returned to Wales in 2017 as the full-time managing director of Equal Education Partners, which has since grown five-fold, now employing over 130 people across Wales.
Liam is passionate about helping Welsh learners access the best possible higher education opportunities and works closely with the Seren programme, which supports year 8-13 learners from state schools and further education colleges across Wales to apply to top universities by providing them with super-curricular academic experiences and application support, information and advice.
As part of his work with Seren, Liam has played a key role in building international education partnerships with leading US universities including MIT and Yale. This has included setting up co-funded scholarships with the Yale Young Global Scholars summer programme, enabling 116 Welsh learners to gain places on the scheme between 2018 and 2021. Similarly, in 2018 he established the MIT Global Teaching Labs in Wales programme which brings STEM experts from MIT into classrooms and staff rooms in schools and colleges across Wales, which will now run until 2026.
His work has also seen him collaborate with leading universities including the University of Oxford to set up an online summer school for Seren learners, which sees them attend lectures led by top academics from around the world, to give them an insight into higher education, develop their skills and strengthen their applications. He is also a volunteer alumni interviewer for Yale University and an external application reader for the US-UK Fulbright Commission – an organisation supporting more young people to study in the USA.
Going forward, Liam aims to continue working on challenges facing the education sector, such as talent attraction and development, and hopes to forge further global partnerships and connections to enhance Wales’ education system. He plans to do this by working on widening higher education access with Seren, improving STEM education, increasing international mobility of Welsh learners and educators, and exploring edtech solutions in the heart of Silicon Valley.
As someone who’s gay, epileptic and from a multiethnic background, Liam is also keen to work on initiatives to make classrooms more inclusive including those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, LGBTQ+, physically impaired and neurodivergent learners. As a Welsh speaker, he is also keen to support initiatives to help promote the language and as part of his assessment for the Knight Hennessy Scholarship, submitted a video about the Welsh language, its history, resurgence and the efforts to grow its use.
“I am really passionate about helping young people in Wales achieve their goals and firmly believe someone’s background shouldn’t determine their future or prevent them from achieving big things.
“It’s always worth being ambitious, trying your best and aiming high, even if you don’t think it will work out. That’s why I feel strongly that Seren is so important and why I have been involved with the programme, both personally and through Equal Education Partners.”