Understanding the possibilitiesNews, Student news, Alumni news
Broadening horizons and raising aspirations is an important part of Wadham’s access work. As GCSE results are taken into account in university applications, improving awareness about university before students reach sixth form helps them make informed choices as they move through school.
Wadham’s Access and Outreach Officer, Emily Cannon works with school students from the age of 11, visiting them in schools, along with Wadham student ambassadors, in order to answer questions and provide information about applying to university. Then Aspiration days at Wadham enable students from schools in Wadham’s designated regions to take part in taster sessions, look round Wadham and Oxford, and find out more about university life.
Visiting Wadham on an Aspiration day, Teacher Michael Doherty, Head of Year 11 at Trinity Catholic High School in Redbridge commented on why he believes access visits are important. “It gets the spark going,” he said. “It is important for school students to start thinking about university early – even in year nine and ten when they are making their GCSE choices. It is very hard for them because many of them have no idea what is out there, so access days and visits by university students to our school really help our students to start to understand the possibilities.”
A question and answer session kicks off the access day. Which is the oldest university in Britain? Which university has the largest number of students? How many different courses can you study at university? What are the differences between school and university?
Confirming ideas, dispelling myths and referring students to information sources and websites where they can find out more are all part of the Aspiration day. Subject specific, hands-on taster sessions given by Wadham tutors and graduate students are designed to interest and excite school children to look more deeply into specific aspects of their favourite subjects. Then Wadham undergraduate student ambassadors lead small groups of students around the Wadham site, answering questions as they go and giving the low-down on student life, social and sporting activities.
“Part of our aim is to inspire and excite school students about the possibilities ahead of them at university,” said Emily. “We also want to make sure that the students understand that a university education does not depend on family income – there is help available to those that need it, particularly at Oxford.”
Leon-Kay Ashu, 15, is hoping to do Maths, Further Maths and Chemistry or Biology at A level. With his sister at Bristol University and his father a former lecturer he has seen a few universities already. “You can immediately see that Oxford is different, even down to the way the grass is cut! It is a lot more diverse than I thought it would be and you know that a degree from Oxford would provide you with a solid foundation in life.”
Lorraine Fadahunsi, 14, is passionate about Maths and is hoping to do Maths and Economics at A level with a view to going into accountancy after university. “At our school we have been told about the possibility of getting to Oxbridge, but seeing Oxford, I really want to come here. I enjoyed the ‘taster’ session – it was very interesting. I also learned that within each course there are lots of different topics you can study.”
Christian Pellicci, 14, is planning to study History and Economics at A level. “I want to go to university but I have no idea where. I would like to study Law and would like to choose the best university to help me with my course. I hadn’t realised the number of courses available at Oxford until today, and it is interesting to see what an Oxford College is like.”
Yasmin Nwofor, 14, is hoping to study Chemistry, Spanish and Maths at A level. “I definitely hope to go to Oxford or Cambridge because they have such good reputations – they are the top and you get the best degrees. Seeing Wadham makes me aspire to come even more. I like the challenge of hard work and I want to start my own business when I’m older – maybe a chain of pharmacies if I can study Pharmacology at university. I didn’t know that Oxford was founded so long ago.”
At the end of this particular Aspiration day 82.1% of the students ‘Strongly Agreed’ or ‘Agreed’ that ‘Oxford University is a place for me’ and 84.6% of the students said that they would now look into doing more to prepare them for applying to university (from reading more to working hard, paying attention more at school, visiting more universities, researching different courses). In answer to the question ‘Has your visit changed your views about Higher Education?’ one student commented that he/she was now ‘More likely to attend university.’