Minister backs Oxford's twin access schemes
The University was praised by Mr Stephen Byers, then Minister of
State for School Standards, for its `foresight and commitment'
in embarking on a programme of summer schools for state school
pupils and teachers.
Mr Byers, now promoted to Chief Secretary to the Treasury, spoke at a dinner in St Hilda's College on Friday, 10 July, attended by some 120 sixth-form students taking part in a week-long programme at Oxford. The week also saw a parallel event at the University for almost 60 teachers working in the state-maintained sector.
`I am here to demonstrate the support which the Government wishes to give to this very exciting initiative. It is about trying to break down some of the barriers which exist... to show you that Oxford University is not perhaps how it is portrayed in Brideshead Revisited, but a modern institution of the 1990s.'
Both events were funded by former Oxford graduate Mr Peter Lampl, through the Sutton Trust. He told students how valuable his Oxford education had proved in his business career, both inside and outside the UK, and urged them not to be intimidated about applying.
The Vice-Chancellor, Dr Colin Lucas, who is currently chairing a special University Working Party on Access, reiterated Oxford's commitment to attracting the best applicants from all backgrounds.
The University ran its first summer school for state-school students last year, with support from Mr Lampl. Just over 40 per cent of the 64 participants went on to apply for admission to Oxford, of whom 16 secured conditional offers.
This year 120 students from Aberdeen to Penzance spent a week staying at Magdalen or St Hilda's following a specially designed academic programme in one of six subjects: Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Modern Languages, History, or Classics. These included lectures and classes, time set aside for private study, and practical sessions in the laboratories and at the Language Centre.
The participants, who included students from Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, enjoyed extracurricular activities such as sports, drama workshops, and visits to the student radio station, Oxygen FM, as well as attending talks on admission to Oxford and interview skills.
In his speech, Mr Byers urged them not to suffer from `the poverty of ambition'. He said: `What is significant about the summer schools is not about political correctness or lowering standards. It is saying that you will achieve those standardswhy don't you apply to Oxford.'
The in-service training week for teachers of English, Geography, and Physics, piloted for the first time this year, attracted nearly 60 participants from state schools and sixth-form colleges.
They took part in lectures, seminars, activities and field trips related to their subject and attended plenary sessions on admissions procedures at Oxford. There was also a special talk given by Mr Tony Higgins, Chief Executive of UCAS, the Universities Central Admissions Service, on the future of access to higher education.
Many teachers and students said that their view of Oxford had changed and that they had been surprised to find such modern facilities behind ancient façades.
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