Fitzwilliam College began life 150 years ago as a non-collegiate institution, providing Cambridge education to undergraduates unable to afford membership of a college. And today we’re delighted to continue that tradition of widening participation by partaking in a major new STEM programme supporting hundreds of State school students.
The free STEM SMART programme aims to help hundreds of UK state school students improve their A-level results in Science and Maths subjects through weekly tutorials with Cambridge subject specialists, mentoring with Cambridge students and lectures from top scientists.
It will support pupils’ studies in maths and science throughout their final year-and-a-half – from the second term of Year 12 to their Year 13 A-level examinations.
It is a long-term initiative to ensure those who are most engaged in STEM get the most support to fulfil their promise by enhancing their A-Level grades to allow access to Russell Group universities.
As one of 12 colleges taking part in the programme, Fitzwilliam College will also be providing students the chance to experience life at on campus with a four-day residential at the culmination of their studies. Sustained engagement will lead to an award that can be included in their UCAS personal statement as an example of super-curricular activity.
"I'm delighted that we are providing new opportunities for the engineers and scientists of the future," Dr Robert Abayasekara, Science Admissions tutor at Fitzwilliam College, said.
"This really chimes with Fitzwilliam values - it is an important part of our heritage to widen participation. It's a great pleasure that we are a founding College in this exciting new programme."
Beginning in January 2022, participating students will learn via an online platform called Isaac Physics, whose associate director Dr Anton Machacek, who was recently elected a bye-fellow of Fitzwilliam College.
The programme aims to build confidence in talented students who have experienced educational and social disadvantage, and motivate them to apply to study Engineering or physical sciences (such as Physics, Chemistry, and Materials Science) at top universities, including Cambridge.
STEM SMART is open to students at non-fee-paying schools from Widening Participation backgrounds - including students who live in areas of high deprivation, those who have been eligible for free school meals at any point during their secondary schooling, those who are care-experienced, those at schools unable to offer further mathematics as an A-level, and mature students who are self-studying, among others. Mature students studying independently will also be eligible. Apply here.
David Buckley, Head of Physics at Mayflower High School, an academy in Billericay, Essex, said: “Our students have had an unprecedented, difficult time in their education, so this additional tuition – the extra time and detail that teachers want to give but because of the demands of the job sometimes can’t – is hugely welcome, particularly now.
“Being able to meet and work with Cambridge University experts and current Cambridge undergraduates, to see how they approach particular problems, and find out about life around their courses, really is a unique opportunity for our students. All teachers want their students to do as well as possible and achieve their potential, whether that’s at Cambridge or another top university.”
The University of Cambridge is in contact with around 3,000 state schools across the UK about STEM SMART, and aims to enrol around 750 A-level students for the start of the pilot. It will be free to all students taking part, following generous support and funding from the University, Colleges and the Department for Education England. It is being launched to help bridge attainment gaps, mitigate educational disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and address the UK’s skills shortage in STEM subjects