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Norfolk and Cambridge Higher Aspirations Scheme – a new innovative partnership giving Year 12 students a long look at Cambridge life

  • 20 November 2020

A new innovative partnership between Gonville & Caius College of the University of Cambridge, and Norfolk County Council will offer a unique opportunity to experience Cambridge University learning and life to 158 of Norfolk’s most academically-gifted Year 12 students from 18 sixth forms, and sixth form & further education colleges in the County. 

Historically, too few Norfolk young people, and in particular state-educated young people, have aspired to apply to the most competitive universities. The new Norfolk and Cambridge Higher Aspirations Scheme aims to not only increase progression to top universities but also to raise attainment through subject-specific sessions, giving these students the best tools to make competitive applications to universities such as Cambridge.

It’s fantastic to be a part of this very exciting scheme running for the first time in an area which is significantly under-represented at Cambridge, despite its geographical proximity. I’m thrilled we are able to offer the students tailored support in developing their subject interest and applying to University.

- Katy Lewis, Schools Liasion Officer at Caius

The programme, made possible with the support from a recent legacy gift received by the college, will involve six online subject specific seminars run by Cambridge PhD candidates, information and guidance from the Gonville & Caius College Admissions team and the opportunity to meet current Cambridge students - many from Norfolk schools and colleges. The college also hopes to invite pupils on the programme to visit the historic Old Courts and more modern new courts of Caius, later in the year and once it is safe to do so, to give students a chance to see for themselves the facilities and atmosphere of Cambridge life.  

The programme will be launched with an online event on 25 November, during which the students will meet members of the Gonville & Caius College admissions team, hear a brief overview of studying in Cambridge, engage with a panel discussion and Q&A session with current Cambridge students, and have a chance to meet with their allocated academic supervisor who will guide them throughout the year.

This large, sustained-contact outreach scheme, with Cambridge-style supervisions at its heart, in Norfolk, a county with which Caius has very longstanding links, serves as a fantastic opportunity for state-educated 16- and 17-year-olds across the county, and is a clear statement of the College’s commitment to widening participation and raising aspiration.

- Dr Chris Scott, Tutor for Admissions and Outreach at Caius

Katy Lewis, Schools Liasion Officer at Caius, said, “It’s fantastic to be a part of this very exciting scheme running for the first time in an area which is significantly under-represented at Cambridge, despite its geographical proximity. I’m thrilled we are able to offer the students tailored support in developing their subject interest and applying to University.”

Dr Chris Scott, Tutor for Admissions and Outreach, added, “This large, sustained-contact outreach scheme, with Cambridge-style supervisions at its heart, in Norfolk, a county with which Caius has very longstanding links, serves as a fantastic opportunity for state-educated 16- and 17-year-olds across the county, and is a clear statement of the College’s commitment to widening participation and raising aspiration. We are very grateful to the Higher Aspirations Scheme team in the Norfolk Council for making this project possible through its enthusiasm, dedication, and many established connections throughout the county.’

Norfolk is linked to Gonville & Caius College, and over the past four years, the college and the County Council has worked to improve confidence in applying to university, and more specifically to Cambridge. Robert Rickard, the 14-19 Adviser at Norfolk County Council, explained why a programme of this nature is another fantastic step in the journey to widen participation: “Norfolk results these past 5 years, including in close liaison with Caius outreach and admissions’ colleagues, have slowly improved: 58 young people reportedly gained places at Cambridge and Oxford in 2020, up by nearly 20% on 2019 – but we almost certainly still miss too many, who never even consider it. We are all the more pleased to promote the Norfolk CHAS - but never complacent at the ‘mindset shifts’ still required, at all levels.”

“That 158 of our most able sixth formers ­­– in 18 state sixth forms and colleges – will receive intensive, expert ‘post-A level’ study support this coming year, is due to the generosity of our ‘link’ College, Caius. We may try and network reasonably well in Norfolk, but we could never have dreamt of offering such an immersive learning experience at this level, one tailored to the subject interests of so many bright young people. 

Phyllis O’Grady from the Norfolk Higher Aspirations scheme also commented: “We are hugely excited about the launch of this exciting and innovative collaborative venture which has completely caught the imagination of Norfolk’s brightest and most ambitious Young Learners. Due to the wide reach of the Norfolk Higher Aspirations Scheme we have been able to ensure the invitation reached out to all Year 12 students across Norfolk and we are delighted to be welcoming students from a wide range of schools and colleges across the county. It’s great for our students to have something truly exciting to look forward to after such a turbulent year of studies and we can’t wait to get started.”

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