A recent study has shown that attending a university summer school can have a significant impact on university applications among poorer students.
Sutton Trust, the education charity which organises summer schools, found that out of the 1,750 students who attended a summer scheme in 2008 and 2009, 76% gained places at leading universities.
Dr Hoare, who led the research, commented, “Until now the evidence was anecdotal but the findings prove that summer schools really do work.”
The summer schools are held at top universities across the UK including Cambridge, Bristol, St Andrews and Oxford.
After having collaborated with the Sutton Trust for many years Oxford University launched its own initiative in 2010, called UNIQ. A spokesperson for the University explained, “UNIQ is a summer school which takes students from UK state schools who have strong academic backgrounds and allows them during a week in the summer to study subjects in-depth and learn what living and studying at Oxford is like.”
UNIQ has proved to be a success. 507 students took part in the first summer school and the University anticipates that by 2014 the number will have risen to 1,000 students. Of 657 participants in 2011, 185 received offers from Oxford and of the UNIQ students who applied 41% ended up with places, against an overall success rate for Oxford applicants of below 20%.
Jasmine Krishnamurthy-Spencer, a first year Classics student who attended UNIQ in 2010, is enthusiastic about her experience. She commented, “It made me realise that Oxford was a place where I would really want to go, where I could thrive. I was quite sceptical about applying but once I had attended UNIQ I was sure.”
Andrew Hamilton, Vice-Chancellor of the University, released a statement saying, “The UNIQ summer schools are a central pillar of our access strategy and we are delighted to see how effective they are. We have made it more likely that those from under-represented socio-economic backgrounds will choose Oxford. We hope our message is getting across: if you have the ability, Oxford will remove all barriers.”
Peter Blenkharn, a previous UNIQ participant now studying Engineering at Oxford, agreed. He commented, “Without the experience of the undergraduate lifestyle that UNIQ gave me, I might never have applied to Oxford and would have missed out on the wealth of opportunity.”
Spencer added to this, saying, “It gives students who never would have thought of applying the incentive to do so. UNIQ teaches them what kinds of skills are needed, what the tutors are looking for.” She added however that “More infrastructure is needed to give the students who don’t have direct access to the Oxford bubble a way in.”