FORMER Oldham Sixth Form College student Vishal Gupta has been awarded the prestigious£ 10,000 Pythagoras Prize from St John’s College, Cambridge.

The 18-year-old from Greenacres entered the competition at the elite university never believing he had a chance of winning.

But he was amazed to be told he had bagged the award.

Each year, St John’s College awards the Pythagoras Prize to a first year home undergraduate student studying mathematics at the college.

The prize is a recognition of academic excellence and includes a £10,000 one-off prize at the beginning of the student’s first term in Cambridge.

Both the award title and the financial reward are designed to increase the accessibility of the college to applicants from all backgrounds who might otherwise be daunted by the increasing cost of studying at university.

The prize was launched in 2011 by St John’s College and has changed the lives of its winning students every year since.

St John’s is committed to seeking out and rewarding the pursuit of excellence so makes all its home students, who receive an offer for mathematics, eligible for the award.

Former Waterhead Academy pupil Vishal was automatically put forward, then invited to apply later in the year before finding out he’d won the award.

Vishal, who studied mathematics, further mathematics, computer science and physics at Oldham Sixth Form College showed outstanding academic talent in all his subjects and continuous dedication to his own success, say his former teachers.

Vishal, who also attended Waterhead Academy in Oldham before moving to sixth form college, said: "It was very much a surprise. The standard of entries is extremely high, so I didn't expect to win when I applied.

"I have always been interested in solving maths problems, but I don't know what I want to do when, hopefully, I graduate. I am considering going into research, maybe doing a masters or PHD eventually."

Meanwhile, Vishal, who has a brother and a sister, is enjoying his new university life and has not found the restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic as difficult as some might imagine.

He said: "Many of the lectures are pre-recorded and so easy to follow remotely. Maths is academic subject and there are no practical issues, so there has been no disruption to my studies."

And he is enjoying life in the Cambridge halls of residence.

"I have a great view from my window," he said.