We know that HE+ works. 70% of participants in the 2011-12 HE+ programme were accepted to Russell Group universities, and four in ten of those who applied to Cambridge received offers.
Jess Bond, HE+ co-ordinator for the University of Cambridge
HE+ is a unique collaborative project developed by the University of Cambridge in partnership with groups of schools and colleges across the UK.
Its goal is to encourage and prepare more academically-able students to compete for places at top universities, including the University of Cambridge.
The Rotherham consortium, led by Thomas Rotherham College and linked to Homerton College at the University of Cambridge, was one of the first consortia to join the project.
Preston’s Cardinal Newman College, which is linked to Sidney Sussex College, is one of the newest consorita. The five members of the Preston consortium brought the total number of HE+ participants since its launch in 2009 to just over 5,000.
"We want students from Lancashire to feel confident to apply for any university, including highly selective ones, and any course,” said Dan Taylor, Preston HE+ co-ordinator.
“HE+ gives them the confidence to do that, through stretching and challenging activities among peers with a similar outlook. The involvement of Cambridge has been an absolute well of support and ideas," Dan added.
In an HE+ consortium, schools and colleges work together to offer their brightest students an on-going programme of extension classes and aspiration-raising visits, delivered in partnership with a Cambridge College.
HE+ consortia are now working in Belfast, Cumbria, Preston, Liverpool, Wigan, Manchester, Huddersfield, Rotherham, Hampshire, Herefordshire, Stourbridge and Swansea.
“I was a bit sceptical about Cambridge but today has definitely broken some stereotypes for me,” said Rotherham HE+ participant Edward O'Toole, who was in Homerton College for a Maths masterclass. “The maths session was challenging but an insight into the skills you need at degree level. I liked the independence and the freedom to come up with your own way of tackling the problems.”
Matt Hallam, Associate Head of Sixth Form at Maltby Academy, where Edward is studying for his A Levels, says that the Rotherham HE+ consortium has given his students much greater confidence.
“HE+ helps raise the aspirations of our students and in turn supports them in realising their potential,” Matt said.
“One-off visits to Universities provide a great insight into life as an undergraduate, but impact can be limited. The sustained nature of the HE+ programme means that students develop the necessary higher order thinking skills and confidence to compete with top performing students nationally.
“The prospect of applying to Cambridge, or other top universities, steadily becomes more real as the programme develops.
“It is pleasing to see that many of our HE+ students successfully apply to and accept places at a number of selective universities,” Matt added.
Dr Richard Williams, Principal of Thomas Rotherham College and HE+ Co-Ordinator for the Rotherham Consortium, said: “HE+ is a most valuable initiative. Students and teachers really benefit from coming together in the extension classes in Rotherham, from the day in Cambridge, including the masterclasses with leading academics, and from the visits to Rotherham by our link Cambridge college.”
“The HE+ programme provides academically talented students with a community for whom aiming high is the norm rather than the exception,” explains University of Cambridge HE+ co-ordinator Jess Bond.
“We know that HE+ works,” Jess added. “70% of participants in the 2011-12 HE+ programme were accepted to Russell Group universities, and four in ten of those who applied to Cambridge received offers.”