Oxford University summer school taster for Welsh students

By Colette Hume
BBC Wales education correspondent

Media caption,
Dr Matt Williams, of Jesus College, Oxford, and students explain how Seren can help build confidence in applying

High-achieving teenagers from Wales will have a chance to sample life at Oxford University in a collaboration with the Welsh Government.

Sixth formers who are part of the Seren network will be invited to apply for a place at a four-day summer school at Jesus College, Oxford.

They will try out student life and attend lectures in August.

The summer school is thought to be the first aimed specifically at Welsh students.

Prof Sir Nigel Shadbolt, principal of Jesus College, said he was "incredibly proud" of the college's enduring connection to Wales, which goes back to its foundation in 1571.

"This new initiative will help ensure that we continue to welcome future generations of talented Welsh students here in Oxford," he said.

The Seren network was set up by the Welsh Government two years ago to address the decline in the number of teenagers applying to the UK's top universities, including Oxford and Cambridge.

The flagship university access programme now helps to ensure Wales' most able sixth formers have the right support as they apply to university.

More than 800 potential students have gathered in Newtown, Powys, for a Seren network conference over the next two days, where they are meeting representatives from UK universities and taking part in workshops and talks.

Those attending include Oxford, Cambridge, King's College and Imperial College, London.

Minister for Lifelong Learning and the Welsh Language, Alun Davies, said: "Raising the aspirations and attainment levels of Welsh school pupils to help them reach their academic potential is an ongoing priority for Welsh Government and the Seren network is playing a pivotal role in this ambition.

"Since its inception in 2015, the network has quickly grown to a recognised and valuable vehicle through which some 2,000 of the brightest pupils in Wales are now channelling and honing their academic talents."

Image source, Huw John Cardiff/Seren

The Seren network has 11 hubs across Wales supporting talented Welsh teenagers.

It works in partnership with organisations including the education charity the Sutton Trust to identify opportunities and support Seren students as they apply for degree courses at the best universities, not just in the UK but worldwide.

Morgan Cronin, from the Merthyr-RCT Seren hub, attended a Sutton Trust-organised summer school at Yale University in the United States and now has an unconditional offer to study there.

She said: "Many Welsh students are put off applying to top universities because they're worried about not being comfortable in an environment where they'll be a minority."

Ms Cronin said Welsh students were able to share their stories of studying at top universities and make prospective students more comfortable.

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