14 February 2019

A group of 11 A Level students from Nottingham College’s High Pavement Sixth Form have visited the University of Cambridge this month, as part of the university’s HE+ widening participation scheme. 

The Sutton Trust social mobility charity recently published research which found thatindependent school pupils are seven times more likely to gain a place at Oxford or Cambridge compared to those in non-selective state schools’*. However, this scheme run by Cambridge aims to raise aspirations, and to support students from state schools and colleges to prepare successful applications to top universities such as Cambridge.

Sixth Form students from a wide variety of backgrounds are encouraged to join the scheme, including those who are the first in their family to go to university, live in postcode areas with traditionally low levels of progression into higher education, or from lower income households. 

The students are taking part in a six-month-long project, including masterclasses in their subjects, information and guidance sessions, and other support, to help boost their chances of success.

During the visit, the group sampled subject masterclasses with Cambridge professors, attended a talk on how to make a competitive Oxbridge application, and got the chance to present their own academic research projects to other A Level students from local schools and colleges.

Zoe Cutter is a Lecturer at High Pavement Sixth Form, and the College’s UCAS coordinator for A Level students. She said: “One of the best parts of my job is inspiring students from non-traditional backgrounds to believe they are capable of attending specialist universities like Cambridge, and supporting them through the often challenging application process.

“Peterhouse is the oldest college at Cambridge, and the chance to visit here is the highlight of the programme for many of our students. It helps to dispel a lot of myths, such as thinking you have to be rich to study at Oxbridge, and it helps make the application process more transparent.

“Our students come from such a diverse range of backgrounds, and 2018 saw some great success stories, including a student progressing to Oxbridge, and many going on to a range of high-ranking universities. Schemes like this will help our students prepare to build on this success.”

High Pavement student Shadi Alhalabi, who lives in Carlton, is interested in a career in pharmacy. The 23-year-old is the first person in his family to apply for university, and he is studying A Levels in Psychology, Chemistry, Biology and Sociology. He said: “The HE+ programme is preparing me academically to go to university.

“It was brilliant to be given the chance to explore my ability to do research in my subject area and to feed it back to other students.”

Sixteen-year-old Mia Roberts from Long Eaton is studying Psychology, Physical Education and Biology and is interested in a career in midwifery or nursing. She said: “I’m also the first person in my family to be going to university, so I think it’s important that schools and colleges helps students who are interested in Oxbridge.

“It’s a competitive application process, and for those who don’t know anyone that’s been to university, it’s harder. I’d recommend A Levels at Nottingham College because there are lots of opportunities for you, not just to study, but also to join programmes like HE+.”

Nottingham is one of 18 areas in the UK to be involved in the scheme.

People who would like to find out about A Levels at Nottingham College can visit www.nottinghamcollege.ac.uk