VISFO widens participation with a new scholarship programme for undergraduate students at York

Introducing the Enigma programme for students from widening participation backgrounds.

By Charlotte Hoyle

At VISFO, we focus on health because we care about people. We’re passionate about making people’s lives better, easier or even just a little more hopeful, through everything we do. Our vision to help people was instilled by our CEO and founder, Dr Max Noble.

A health economist by trade, Max’s experience in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries allowed him to observe just how rewarding it can be to deliver support and innovation to individuals who need it most. Motivated by these experiences, Max gravitated towards philanthropic projects such as, a programme aiming to support patients managing lupus, the ROKT foundation charity, which provides vulnerable children with enrichment opportunities and, most recently, the Enigma scholarships in partnership with the University of York.

A brand new scholarship at the University of York

In January 2021, Max began discussions with Sarah Disney, Head of Individual Philanthropy, about a potential scholarship programme designed to benefit students from widening participation backgrounds. As someone who faced adversity throughout his time in education, Max is passionate about levelling the playing field and eliminating barriers to academic and professional success.

The scholarships have come at a pivotal time for the University of York, who have set themselves the ambitious target of becoming a ‘no gaps’ university by 2030. According to Tracy Lightfoot, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Teaching, Learning and Students, ‘no gaps’ status will be achieved when every individual student’s unique circumstances are recognised, understood and specially catered for.


The Enigma scholarships will help do exactly that by providing monetary funding and professional mentorship to 18 undergraduate students from widening participation backgrounds. The students selected for the programme will have all experienced significant barriers to their educational goals in their personal, social or domestic lives. It is hoped that the scholarships will provide more opportunities for those in social care, with disabilities or from minority groups as they progress throughout their undergraduate journeys.

Those chosen for the programme will receive funding across three years of learning that can be used to alleviate the financial anxieties that often accompany university living. By lessening this burden the scholars should have more free time to dedicate to their studies or enrichment opportunities such as clubs and societies.

Izzy, one recipient of the Enigma scholarship, emphasised the amazing impact that the funding will have:

‘After finding out I had qualified for the scholarship I was elated. I felt safe knowing I will be able to procure housing for the rest of the year, and be able to continue to participate in university life. As a result of the scholarship I have elected to go on a PPE enrichment trip to Dublin, in order to deepen my understanding of Economics and Philosophy. I am extremely grateful to Max for enabling me to continue enriching myself in university, including societies, clubs and being able to support myself with housing and essentials.’ 


A completely unique offering

Those awarded the Enigma scholarship will receive a completely unique offering, tailored to maximise their professional and academic development. The students will supplement their degree programmes with collaborative work engineered to connect science, creativity and problem solving, and encourage entrepreneurial thinking. Alongside financial support, VISFO will also provide regular mentoring to participants from experts within the healthtech and pharmaceutical space.

‘At VISFO, we have a wealth of experts from across the pharma industry with years of experience under their belts. Through this completely unique scholarship I’m hoping to offer the students not only funding, but access to invaluable advice and support from established professionals that will fast track their careers to the next level,’ says Max.

The Enigma scholarship is yet another example of VISFO’s commitment to delivering its mission ‘to bring diverse thinkers together, solve problems and benefit the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities’. Enigma scholars will be encouraged to emulate VISFO’s mantra of ‘we think differently’ whilst solving real-world problems in a fun and creative way. It is hoped that the project will enable participants to explore their own potential and develop essential skills to help them succeed beyond graduation.


After months of planning and preparation, Max and other VISFO representatives travelled to the University of York in January 2022 to kick-start the Enigma programme. During the launch the scholars were introduced to the Hypergrad concept, a long-term philanthropic project that they will have the opportunity to work on.

Created to inspire entrepreneurship and emulate a start-up environment, Hypergrad will give the scholars the opportunity to take ownership of a business project and develop their experience in real-world scenarios. It is hoped that through Hypergrad the scholars will boost their employability, growing confidence and a personal brand to help accelerate their careers after university.

The Hypergrad project will be completely self-directed, allowing the students to create something they are truly passionate about. Representatives from VISFO and ICD Executive Search will also be on hand to provide support, expertise and guidance where necessary.

Watch this space

Now, with the programme officially launched, the Enigma scholars are set to meet monthly to receive mentoring and work on the Hypergrad project. It’s going to be a really exciting time, so watch this space and keep a close eye on our LinkedIn page to see what they come up with! They may just be the next Steven Bartlett or Sara Davies…

Blog author(s)

Charlotte Hoyle

Marketing Officer