Racecourse meeting brings students back to home turf

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The 2014 Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences are bringing local undergraduates from both universities back to their home turf, as part of both universities’ commitment to encouraging applications from schools across the whole of the UK.

Cambridge was not going to be a natural transition; there was no precedent for me, but teachers support, Aim Higher, visits and conferences helped to get me there.

Cambridge alum Adam Nall, now Oxford and Cambridge Admissions Co-ordinator at Cheadle Hulme High School.

The focus on local roots went one step further at Haydock Park, the venue for the 2014 North West Oxford and Cambridge Student Conference

Signing in at the registration desk, teacher Adam Nall, accompanying a group of six students from Cheadle Hulme High School, revealed that he had attended the North West OCSC a decade ago and was now working as Oxford and Cambridge Admissions Co-ordinator in the school’s new Sixth Form, having graduated from Sidney Sussex College with a degree in English.

Adam took time out from the programme of talks and masterclasses to share his own experience of applying to Cambridge.

“I was one of two pupils at my school, Werneth School in Stockport, picked by Aim Higher, put on a bus and shipped to Cambridge. We had a tour of Gonville and Caius and stayed overnight in Sidney Sussex, which is where I later went as an undergraduate.

“Cambridge was entirely off my radar until that moment. There’s no experience of university in my family, and no school history of applying to Cambridge.  Aim Higher made me aware. That trip was galvanizing for me; I really set my target of getting in to Cambridge at that moment.

“The Oxford and Cambridge Student Conference that I attended in 2004 added to that sense of “let’s have a go” – the talks provided clarity, they were honest, transparent and encouraging.

“I did have a bit of concern before I applied to Cambridge, but then I remembered my visits. I’d heard northern accents; I’d felt that there were people like me here. Perhaps on paper there’s a difference – some people own country estates, some people come from council estates – but there’s no great divide in terms of what goes on. We were united in why we went there. It was a level playing field.

“After graduating I worked in sales for a few years but I’d done some teaching in India whilst at Cambridge, thanks to grants from my college and the university, and I applied and was accepted for my PGCE with Oxford University.

“I’m now Oxford and Cambridge Admissions Co-ordinator at Cheadle Hulme High School. The school has just opened its 6th Form, so it’s new and exciting.

“I went through the whole journey myself. Cambridge was not going to be a natural transition; there was no precedent for me, but teachers support, Aim Higher, visits and conferences helped to get me there.

“Now I can put people on that bus. If my students are interested, they need to know that they can be, they are allowed to be, they can pursue that passion.

“I see my role as making sure that our very best students go where they deserve to go and those with the potential to excel get recognised and nurtured.”

The free Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences are just one of the ways both universities are working with teachers and students across the UK to challenge stereotypes and encourage applications from bright students from all backgrounds. 

This year eight conferences are being held in seven different cities across the UK.

At each conference, staff and students from both universities explain their application and admissions procedures, offer up-to-date information about courses, provide an insight into student life, and are available to talk informally to participants about any aspect of life at university, or beyond.

By the end of the month over 10,000 pupils and teachers will have been able to attend a conference in their home region and have their questions about studying at Oxford or Cambridge answered.

• More information about the Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences is available at http://www.studentconferences.org.uk

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