Scientist writes to Gordon Brown to protest at withdrawal of funding from college for severely disabled students

World-famous physicist Sir Stephen Hawking has written directly to prime minister Gordon Brown to request a re-think the withdrawal of funding for a college designed for severely disabled students.

The National Star College is one of 168 hit by the fiasco over funding for the government's college renewal programme, having suffered a cut of £6.5m designed to enable modernisation and other capital works.

Hawking, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge university, has joined a growing campaign over the cuts, writing to Brown to draw attention to the National Star College's cause.

The letter, co-signed by his daughter Lucy, says: ““On the basis of the unique and national nature of the college's provision and the extremely specialised needs of its students it is urgent to reconsider the funding position of the National Star College and to find an alternative source of government funding to enable this invaluable project to go forward.”

Helen Sexton, the principal of the college, said she was “extremely grateful” for Professor Hawking's intervention. She said: “As a national resource we contend that National Star College is an exceptional facility, and unless we gain the funding previously earmarked by the LSC we will need to make some tough decisions including potentially reducing the number of places offered to students.”

The National Star Centre for Disabled Youth charity and college was originally established in 1967 for school leavers affected by thalidomide.