Seren project to get Welsh students into top universities

Cambridge student Tomos Wood Image copyright Golley Slater

Bolstering self-belief and challenging misconceptions could encourage more Welsh teenagers to study at the UK's best universities, a student has said.

Cambridge student Tomos Wood, 18, made the comments before addressing a conference of 1,200 teenagers in Powys.

He is on the Welsh Government's Seren programme to get more bright students to apply to the best universities.

About 30 universities, including LSE, Oxford, Cambridge, Exeter, Cardiff and Bath, are at the event in Newtown.

There has been a decline in the number of Welsh applications to Oxbridge in the last three years and at some of the UK's other top universities, according to figures.

Mr Wood, from Menai Bridge, Anglesey, began his engineering degree in September but he had focused his attentions on securing a top university place after his GCSE results.

He said he had found that some students did not apply to top universities because of wrongly held beliefs that they were for students from more affluent areas or because they lacked confidence in their own ability.

"It's a shame people do not apply because they doubt themselves or have these misconceptions," he said

"Don't doubt yourself, you can do it."

He was a member of the Seren Network which was set up in November 2015, creating regional hubs to provide access routes to top higher education institutions.

Image copyright Golley Slater
Image caption About 1,200 sixth-formers from across Wales are attending the two-day event in Newtown

This year, 22 Seren students took part in a residential visit to Jesus College, Oxford, to learn more about student life and, of those, 16 Year 13 students went on apply to Oxford with the remainder seeking places at other universities,

The residential programme is being extended to 75 students next year and the two-day conference, called Seren 2017: Above and Beyond, is giving potential candidates the opportunity to find out more.

They are taking part in workshops delivered by university academics, as well learning about student finance.

Jesus College's access fellow Dr Matt Williams, who organised the summer school, said: "With help and support from our college alumni and the Welsh Government, I am thrilled that we will be expanding the summer school up to 75, with a further 11 teachers invited from each of the hubs."

Education Secretary Kirsty Williams said: "Summer schools at any university are excellent vehicles for breaking down barriers and challenging stereotypes that might prevent students from reaching their academic potential."

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