From students to tourists, it’s not surprising that so many people flock to the city of Cambridge every day. The city itself boasts an incredible history, an expanse of parks and intricate architecture, and at its centre: the University of Cambridge - a global leader in academic excellence and one that has played host to some of the greatest minds throughout history - from Stephen Hawking, to Stephen Fry.
For many young people, the University of Cambridge is the highest achievement and one of the most sought-after university destinations. However, for a variety of reasons, too many pupils that have the grades to apply to some of the most highly selective universities like Cambridge are not.
Back in 2013, the Sutton Trust famously highlighted that there are an estimated 3,700 “missing” state-educated students who have the grades to get into Russell Group universities in England but do not get the places. And as we know from our own work, many of these are pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Fast forward a little over a two years, and there are promising signs of progress. As part of our own Futures programme for instance, 82% of pupils on the programme went on to university in 2015, with 40% of them going on to study at highly selective institutions including the University of Manchester, Queen Mary University of London and the University of Southampton.
And fantastically, it has been the most highly selective universities themselves that have been at the heart of this work – both in their own work, and as part of Futures, our flagship outreach programme which is helping to address the way disadvantaged pupils are underrepresented in the UK’s top universities.
Supported also by the crucial funding of Deloitte, the Wolfson Foundation, City of London Corporation, and the University of Cambridge, we are delighted to once again be hosted at the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford as part of the Futures’ Easter Schools – this year, with nearly 400 pupils from across England and Wales. Designed to help break down the barriers perceived by young people when applying to the world’s most top universities, these events allow pupils the chance to explore the city, take part in interactive lectures, and learn for themselves that they are places for them as much as anyone else.
Attending the Easter Schools this week, I can see how transformative the experience is for the pupils we work with, and how their perceptions of the type of university they could apply to is being changed. It may be that pupils decide that Cambridge and Oxford are still not for them, but hopefully pupils come away from these events and are at least more inclined to consider the variety of options available to them, and are put at ease about stepping out of their comfort zones.