Setting aspirations early

48 academically outstanding primary school pupils got a first taste of university life last week, during a visit to Fitzwilliam College, organised in partnership with university access charity The Brilliant Club. 

“People should go to university so they can get a better job, and have better chances.” That was the motion finally voted through in Fitzwilliam College’s Upper Hall last Thursday, after a lively debate questioning the necessity of higher education. The Speakers in this debating chamber however were not College undergraduates, but a group of visiting primary school pupils aged 9-11.

The College hosted these 48 high-achieving pupils from North Beckton, Willow Brook and Keir Hardie primary schools, three non-selective state primary schools in east London, as the ‘launch trip’ for the Brilliant Club’s Scholars Programme. The Brilliant Club is a not-for-profit organisation that exists to widen access to top universities for outstanding pupils from non-selective state schools.Their extended learning Scholars Programme lasts for 6 – 8 weeks and gives pupils an opportunity to experience a series of university-style tutorial sessions led by doctoral and postdoctoral researchers, all of whom have been recruited and trained by the Brilliant Club.

On average, 56% of the pupils that the Brilliant Club work with have parents who have no experience of higher education, and 35% of all places on the Scholars Programme are reserved for pupils who have been eligible for free school meals in the last six years.

Girl giving debate speech

“We were delighted to meet so many pupils at Fitzwilliam College and to see them enjoying their time exploring the University of Cambridge,” said the Brilliant Club’s East of England Director Steph Hamilton. “We hope they get a lot out of The Scholars Programme and look forward to seeing them all again at their graduation events and celebrating their achievements.”

The day at Fitzwilliam established a connection between the new programme cohort and their academic mentors, and also featured a College tour led by volunteer Fitz undergraduates. For many of the children, the visit to the College was their first introduction to the idea of university.

“People are often surprised to learn that the College works with such young students – but it’s about planting the idea early,” says Fitzwilliam's schools liaison officer Aemilia McDonnell. “It allows the students to experience university for themselves and encourages them to view university as a possibility for their own future.”

Both the staff and student access team at Fitzwilliam College organise regular events with schools and colleges across the country to inspire able students to realise their potential and consider making an application to a top university.

Next week, between 26 – 28 November, the Fitzwilliam’s JCR Target & Access team is hosting the first Fitzwilliam College Shadowing Scheme. The student-run scheme is specifically targeted at aspiring university students who have no family experience of higher education and who may otherwise not get the opportunity to learn about top universities.

“We will be welcoming nine Year 12 students from state-maintained schools in the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham who will be staying in College and 'shadowing' current Fitzwilliam students, attending their lectures and classes, in order to experience what life is really like at Cambridge,” says Fitzwilliam’s JCR Target & Access Executive, Sophie Keating.

Hammersmith & Fulham is the London borough linked to Fitzwilliam College via the University of Cambridge’s Area Links Scheme, a system which enables schools and colleges across the country to have a direct contact point with the University.

If you would like more information on any of the programmes above, please contact Fitzwilliam’s Schools Liaison Officer 

01223 332063


Other News
Fitzwilliam PhD student Humaira Chowdhury has been awarded the prestigious Royal Historical Society Marshal Fellowship.
Professor Vira is Head of the Department of Geography, Professor of Political Economy and a Fellow of Fitzwilliam College.
Last Friday, Fitzwilliam Geography student Rosie Rice was preparing to return to the UK after a month researching age-old eruptions in Tenerife. Instead, she ended up on the neighbouring island of La Palma, watching a volcano erupt in real time.