Rural students 'have Oxbridge potential'

A PILOT scheme aims to encourage more rural students to study at top universities.

Oxford University will pilot a summer school this year to help maximise engagement with students from educationally disadvantaged regions – including rural and coastal areas.

The summer school is being run in partnership with the Sutton Trust, which aims to give teenagers from low and middle income homes the confidence to apply to top universities.

"We have places for 2,400 bright teenagers on our summer schools this year," said Sutton Trust chairman Sir Peter Lampl.

"They'll run at 12 of our partner universities across the country, including the University of Oxford who we're delighted to be working with again."

The first Sutton Trust summer school took place 20 years ago.

In the summer of 1997, some 64 teenagers from across the UK came together for a residential at Oxford, where participants spent a week living as an undergraduate.

Youngsters on the residential sceheme went to lectures and workshops, had a tutorial and were given the opportunity to try social activities such as punting.

"We knew there were thousands of talented state school pupils out there with the potential to study at a top university but who were missing out on places," said Sir Peter.

From this pilot, the trust now have 2,400 places available at 12 of the top universities – with a new alumni network allowing it to reconnect with many past students.

Sutton Trust summer schools set many students up for university and a successful career.

Early beneficiaries are now among the country's high-flyers. They include politicians, doctors, lawyers, financiers, journalists and teachers.

There have been improvements in university access since then; the number of state school students at Oxbridge has increased by 20% over this period.

Top universities are better focused on access, and generally are led by people with a strong commitment to improving opportunities for able students from low and middle income homes.

But there are still some groups of young people – particularly white working class boys – who are seriously underrepresented at selective universities.

To help inspire those groups, the trust has relaunched its Sun Scholars scheme – giving the talented children of newspaper readers the opportunity to attend a summer school.

One of the original Sun Scholars, Leigh Fletcher, was inspired to apply to Cambridge University after spending a week there on a summer school.

Today, Dr Fletcher is now a Research Fellow at the University of Leicester and has spent time working at NASA's jet propulsion laboratory.


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