This summer I had the joy of travelling around the UK and Ireland with our amazing outreach team as part of the annual teachers’ conferences. These one-day workshops are designed to offer support and advice to teachers in helping their students make a competitive application to the University, and are generally designed to make the process less opaque (a much needed activity!)
The team consisted of two University admissions staff, a college outreach officer (each area of the UK we went to is affiliated with a particularly college), two current students, a maths admission tutor representing sciences, and me, representing humanities. During the sessions we introduced the attending teachers to the slightly unconventional structure of Oxford, before discussing the various array of tests and interviews that make up the undergraduate application process.
As part of the University I inevitably took for granted not only how complicated this process can seem, as well as how many frankly bizarre myths surround the process! (things like the importance of sitting in a specific chair, or what to do if a tutorial fellow throws a piece of fruit at you!) It was clear that for all the hard work Oxford puts into elucidating the entrance procedure, it still carries a lot of stigma confusion. By far the hardest task of the conference was persuading some of the attendees that – contrary to belief – Oxford admissions doesn’t actually use a magic sorting hat to make its decisions . . .
In all seriousness, being part of such an incredible team, and seeing how inspired the attendees were at the end of the day was hugely rewarding. Talking to the teachers informally after the sessions were over, it was clear how much the events had meant to them too. Without exception, each attending teacher talked about their students with such pride, and it was incredibly moving to hear them describe the newfound confidence they now had to help support these students with a possible Oxford application: something which, for many, was something they had never imagined doing!
Dr Toby Young
Gianturco Junior Research Fellow (Linacre College), Knowledge Exchange Fellow (TORCH) and proud Early Career Academic Outreach Network Member