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A panel at the Access and Widening Participation Conference
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Access and Widening Participation Conference held at Fitzwilliam

On Saturday, Fitzwilliam College hosted an Access and Widening Participation Conference which featured wide-ranging discussion and lively debate of some of the key issues.

The conference, held in the Auditorium, attracted 120 attendees, ranging from Fitzwilliam students and staff, past and present, to charity representatives, academics and university leaders, teachers, and key alumni supporters.

The Master, Professor Nicola Padfield, opened the conference, which marked the culmination of our 150th anniversary year celebrations. 

The founding of the Non-Collegiate Students Board in 1869, to provide access to a Cambridge education for students who were otherwise unable to afford College fees, ultimately led to the founding of Fitzwilliam. Promoting access to higher education has been central to our identity since.

Access and widening participation for Fitzwilliam means admitting the brightest students and supporting them to succeed to their potential, and the College’s motivation in holding the event was to bring together interested parties so we could all learn together how to improve our practices.

Discussion was structured around four panels, detailed in the full programme, with attendees encouraged to ask questions, enter into discussion, and ponder how to make a difference.

As the Master concluded: “We had some powerful presentations and challenging debates. The proof of the pudding is in the eating: please help us build on our very real commitment to ensuring admission to students of the highest intellectual potential, irrespective of social, racial, religious and financial considerations. Of course we want to practise what we preach.”

The Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Stephen Toope, who closed the conference, reinforced this message, stressing a determination to build on the day’s discourse across the University, and beyond.

The conference will feature in our forthcoming issue of Optima magazine, to be distributed in October, and we are producing a film of the day. Some images can be found on our Flickr page.

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