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SWAPA Scholarship Scheme

Students with a Passion for Astronomy 

SWAPA applications have closed for 2024.

To apply for the scholarship, students should request the information from their Principal or Head of Science, or contact for the forms.

 The Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand (RASNZ) provides scholarships to up to 10 secondary school students who are NZ citizens or permanent residents and have a passion for astronomy, allowing them to attend the annual RASNZ conference. The conference will be held in Whakatane from May 9th to 11th, 2025, and the scholarship includes free conference registration, travel (if required), backpacker accommodation, and a banquet ticket, with chaperones provided for successful applicants. Students in years 13, 12, or 11 can apply, and non-Whakatane residents may receive travel and accommodation if required.


To apply for the scholarship, students should request the information from their Principal or Head of Science, or contact for the forms. Students need to fill out a registration form, including personal and contact details, science teacher’s information, and a 300-word statement explaining their interest in astronomy and why they want to attend the conference. The deadline for submissions will be announced and successful applicants will be selected based on their enthusiasm for astronomy, clarity, and quality of their statement by a panel of RASNZ members.


Professor John Hearnshaw introduced SWAPA in 2014 as a program to recognise and reward ten high-achieving secondary school students with a passion for astronomy by sending them to the annual RASNZ conference


Each year, the Society invites students from all New Zealand secondary schools to compete in a short essay competition, explaining why they would like to attend the conference. For the first three years of SWAPA, selected students received a waived registration fee and a free banquet dinner ticket, thanks to a donation from Graham Blow. In 2018, Michael Snowden's generous contribution allowed the SWAPA scheme to cover students' travel, accommodation, registration, and banquet expenses. The University of Canterbury Foundation now administers Snowden's donation, which is expected to provide continued support for SWAPA students in perpetuity.


Over ten RASNZ conferences (2015-2024), exceptional young students received SWAPA scholarships and participated in the events held in Tekapo, Napier, Dunedin, Christchurch, New Plymouth, Wellington, Whangarei, Auckland and Nelson. Many of them have gone on to excel in astronomy and astrophysics at university. Due to the pandemic, the 2020 conference was canceled, so in 2021, a double cohort of SWAPA students was selected to attend the Wellington conference. The group comprised nine students selected in 2020 and ten selected in 2021, supported by Michael Snowden's donation.

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