Students at Gower College Swansea have taken part in a brand new initiative that aims to attract more young people from state schools to the University of Oxford.
Around 80 A Level students attended the recent Step Up workshop at the Gorseinon Campus which was led by Head of Outreach at New College, Oxford - and former student of Gower College Swansea - Daniel Powell.
The Step Up programme is designed to inspire and support state school and college students through years 11-13. It aims to ensure that students of high academic potential recognise Oxford as a realistic and achievable option.
It identifies seven practical stages that will help students put together a competitive application to Oxford, with Step 1 being an introductory session which challenges students' perceptions about the University of Oxford.
“We are delighted to work in partnership with Daniel and with New College to offer our students even more opportunities to explore options at the UK’s top universities,” says the College’s Oxbridge Coordinator Fiona Beresford. “It will be a fantastic opportunity for our students to speak to someone like Daniel, who is former student and who has been through the process himself.”
Step Up is a sustained contact scheme which will see students attend a series of sessions with the New College Outreach team and have the opportunity to meet tutors. This regular, consistent contact will help students to build the many stages of a university application, as well as normalising the University of Oxford – making it seem both less intimidating and more achievable.
“The majority of outreach programmes influence the critical applications and admissions part of the process,” says Warden of New College, Miles Young. “But we profoundly believe that there is an earlier stage at which we can attack the problem - deeper down the age groups - by building up long term relationships. This is entirely consistent with Oxford’s educational difference, which is that it practises relationship-based teaching. Step Up supports students, teachers and parents to raise aspiration and encourage those talented students who might otherwise have not considered Oxford a realistic ambition.”
New College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford. Situated in the heart of the city, it is one of the most architecturally striking, academically successful and largest colleges, with over 700 students (undergraduates and graduates) studying a range of disciplines.
Step Up was piloted in 2017, and now New College is working with 30 schools and colleges from regions across England and Wales:
Step 1 takes place at schools and is an introductory session about universities and challenges students' existing perceptions of the University of Oxford.
Step 2 is hosted at New College. Students have the chance to see three different colleges, meet current students and academics, and have a session on their current and future options.
Step 3 gets students talking and writing about their favourite subject - a good introduction to the interviews and personal statements which will come in the future. It also builds analytical reading and critical thinking skills.
Step 4 is an alternative Open Day, hosted and run by current New College students, including academic sessions, social activities and a sample freshers' fair.
Step 5 helps students make a start on their personal statements, analysing existing statements to see what works well, what doesn't, and the kind of activities they could be doing to further their own subject interests.
Step 6 is based around the University of Oxford Open Day. Students will have the opportunity to stay at the College for the first time, before learning more about their chosen subjects and a variety of different colleges by visiting them!
Step 7 introduces students to Oxford interviews, informing them about the process and helping them prepare.
Photos: Adrian White Photography