Nelson and Colne College programme supporting students' 'Oxbridge' dreams

A Scholars’ Programme designed by Nelson and Colne College to raise student aspirations and support Oxbridge and Russell Group university applications has had a successful first year.

Thursday, 8th July 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Friday, 9th July 2021, 11:19 am
Victoria Syme-Taylor

Launched in September 2020, the programme is run by Victoria Syme-Taylor, previously a Dean of Academic Studies at King’s College London.

More than 70 students have been involved in the programme in its first year, and it has seen students apply and be accepted on courses run by Oxford and Cambridge universities that mirror tutorials and research they will be expected to produce as undergraduates at these universities.

These include Worcester College, Oxford’s ‘Being Human’ tutorials and Pembroke College, Oxford’s ‘Oxnet’ series. Both courses have looked at topics in Science, Social Sciences and Arts and Humanities. Students have also been accepted onto a masterclass series for Medicine, Philosophy, Chemistry and Mathematics run by Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

Students have engaged in debates, student-led presentations, and seminars through the programme, and these have encouraged the skills of critical thinking and intellectual resilience which are expected at Russell Group universities. It has also encouraged students to participate in external competitions run by universities and apply to attend summer schools.

Outreach teams have also delivered presentations to students on the Scholar’s Programme from the Queen’s College, Oxford, and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, as well as other Russell Group universities including Durham, Leeds and St Andrew’s.

Victoria Syme-Taylor, Nelson and Colne College’s Realising Aspirations Coordinator and Scholars’ Programme Lead, said: “We’ve had an excellent first year of the Scholars’ Programme, and it has opened the eyes of almost 80 students to the possibilities of studying at Russell Group universities, including Oxbridge, when they leave Nelson and Colne College.

“I’m delighted to have established new links with some of the colleges at Oxford and Cambridge, as well as a range of brilliant leads at other Russell Group universities. This has benefited our Scholars’ Programme students tremendously, and I’m excited for the new academic year where I’m sure we’ll see increased numbers of Oxbridge and Russell group applicants and a new cohort of students with similar aspirations.”

Students with aspirations to progress to Russell Group universities, including Oxbridge, receive extensive wraparound support at Nelson and Colne College – the number one college in the country for A Level progress.

It begins with programmes such as the three-year Pendle Elite Challenge which stretches the abilities of gifted and talented secondary school students in Pendle, Burnley and the Ribble Valley from Year 9 onwards.

At college, students are supported to achieve their very best by expert teachers in the classroom, combined with extensive extracurricular opportunities outside the classroom. These include the Scholars’ Programme and Pre-Professional Programmes – for the most competitive career pathways at leading universities – as well as 1:1 tutorial support, help and guidance on university applications and personal statements.

Robyn Neal (17) formerly of Ss John Fisher and Thomas More RC High School, said: “Progressing to Oxford is something that developed through the Pendle Elite Challenge with college through school. Previously I would have thought it impossible, but I enjoyed the visit to Oxford through the programme and I felt comfortable with the people and the surroundings.

“The Scholars’ Programme is brilliant. I’ve taken part in the Oxnet tutorials and Victoria is very knowledgeable. I want to do Medicine and I’m confident I will get the support required for my application and personal statement to succeed. Medicine appeals to me as it makes a difference to people’s lives, and I like the idea of working with people in communities as a GP.”

Mohamad Al-Shaar (17) previously of Marsden Heights Community College, said: “My ambition is to go to Cambridge and study Mathematics. I love Mathematics and want to study in an environment where I am alongside others who will push me to keep improving.

“The Scholars’ Programme is excellent, and through it I have just attended a summer school at Lancaster University which was very interesting. Victoria is really friendly, is very experienced and offers great advice and insight to those who are looking to study at a Russell Group university.”