Academic tutors, admissions staff and students from Oxford University have met more than 10,000 prospective students and their teachers in seven UK cities over the last few weeks as they hit the road for the Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences.
Staff and students gave presentations and answered questions to explain Oxford's application and admission procedures, give up-to-date information about courses, and provide an insight into student life.
Holding these free one-day conferences is just one of the ways Oxford and Cambridge universities are challenging stereotypes and encouraging applications from bright students from all backgrounds.
Mike Nicholson, Director of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Oxford, said: 'This year's Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences were busier than ever and we are delighted that so many students came to see us. It's really important to us that students have the opportunity to experience the vast range of courses and activities we can offer.
'Whilst we would be keen to see students coming to visit us in Oxford on open days, and extend an open invite to all of them, we recognise that it is equally important that we come and visit them in their home location. The student conferences not only give students the chance to see what makes our courses so special but also to engage with students who have come to Oxford from the region.'
Conferences took place in Edinburgh, Newcastle, Merseyside, Lisburn, Surrey, Swansea and Birmingham. Locations included Haydock Park Racecourse in Merseyside, Newcastle's St James' Park and Swansea's Liberty Stadium. Current Oxford students from each area returned to their home city to show that students from all parts of the UK successfully apply and do well at the University.
Holly Ellis, who did her A-levels at The Blue Coat School in Liverpool and is now studying Biological Sciences at St John's College, Oxford, attended the Merseyside conference. She said: 'Outreach work is important as the University wants to attract the highest calibre of students, regardless of their background. I hope that the conference will give students the confidence to apply to top institutions and break down the usual stereotypes that often prevent them from making an application.'
Natalie Johnson, who did her A-levels at Hirst High School in Ashington (now Northumberland Church of England Academy) and is now studying at St Anne's College, Oxford, helped out at the conference in Newcastle. She said: 'I think the stereotypical Oxford student can put people off applying, as they don't believe they will fit in, and sometimes all it takes is talking to a current student or a tutor to dispel some of these myths about Oxford life, making Oxford/Cambridge seem less like "magical places" and more like achievable goals.'
Natalie added: 'Some of the prospective applicants may not have had the chance to visit Oxford/Cambridge – these conferences allow students to learn more about the universities and to ask questions to tutors and students that go there, without having to attend an open day. I hope the conferences will encourage more students from non-traditional Oxford backgrounds to apply to Oxford/Cambridge, and to spread the word that if you are bright and hard-working you should consider applying, regardless of what your background is.'