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The College's flagship virtual outreach programme will start again in November, supporting over 700 high-achieving state school students.

Following the success of the Summer Preparation Programme, we launched the Lucy Cavendish College Academic Enrichment Programme 2022 (AEP) to support high-achieving state school students and instil ‘university readiness’. In line with Lucy Cavendish College’s mission to offer opportunities to underrepresented groups, the AEP aimed to provide supplementary academic support for students from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds and widen their intellectual horizons, giving them the best chance of achieving their full potential.

From January to May, the AEP supported 550 state school students through the first year of their post-16 studies through weekly online sessions. These included academic enrichment classes, supplementing students’ subject-specific skills and knowledge while offering them the opportunity to think more seriously about possible degree routes; peer discussion groups, where students had the opportunity to discuss their interests with peers and build their academic confidence; and university readiness sessions, which provided information and guidance on how to make competitive applications to Cambridge and other highly selective universities. 

The Covid-19 pandemic widened further the attainment gap between students from the most and least privileged backgrounds. The AEP aimed to respond to this, with its primary aim being to raise attainment among high-achieving students from disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds. 79% of respondents agreed that the AEP strengthened their subject-specific knowledge and skills, and 86% now feel confident in their current studies.  

  • “The AEP has been really useful in my current studies at school as I can apply the knowledge I have gained from sessions to the subjects I am taking.” 

  • “[I have gained] a more developed ability to think critically and see other perspectives.” 

  • “Thanks to the programme, I now feel much more able to have more challenging intellectual conversations.” 

Subject-specific sessions challenged students beyond their current studies and provided an insight into university-level study. Over 90% of students feel that the AEP gave them an insight into what it is like to study at university. The range of subjects on offer – from Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic to Veterinary Medicine – allowed students to think more seriously about specific degree routes, including many different to those they had originally considered. The percentage of respondents who have a good understanding of the range of courses available to study at university increased from 71% to 92%, whilst the percentage who have a good understanding of the contents of the courses in which they are interested increased from 56% to 93%. While 82% of students feel that the subject-specific sessions have helped them to decide what subject they might like to study at university, others indicate that the broad range of subjects offered gave them the opportunity to explore subjects they may otherwise not have studied formally before, thus opening new possible degree routes.

The AEP also aimed to give students the skills, resources, and motivation to explore their subject interests independently, outside of their school curriculum and the AEP. 88% of participants now feel confident exploring their subject independently, which increased by twelve percentage points over the course of the programme. 

  • “I can use the sessions as a springboard to go and do my own research around the subjects I am interested in.” 

  • “I have discovered lots of new methods and resources for continuing my own supracurricular exploration and have gained new ideas on what to research.” 

  • “I particularly appreciate how my peers and I can ask the academics leading the academic enrichment sessions further questions, and how we are encouraged to find new ways to explore our subject and further develop interests in specific areas of our subjects.” 

  • “I've really enjoyed the subject specific sessions - the topics have been really interesting, and it's been a great way to start exploring subjects beyond my A levels, as I previously didn't know where to start with this!” 

Following the AEP, students took part in an intensive, week-long, university application ‘bootcamp’ in August, where they received comprehensive, tailored support with writing personal statements, preparing for interviews and admissions assessments, and working to develop their enquiring, enterprising, problem-solving approach to university applications. Over 90% of respondents now feel well-informed both about applying to top Universities generally and about applying to Cambridge specifically, which has risen from 52% and 39% respectively, and 97% know where to go for further information or if they have any questions. Furthermore, 98% feel confident that they know how to make a competitive application to Cambridge and other top universities.  

  • “Through this programme, I feel equipped with enough knowledge and prepared to take on this exciting and rewarding challenge [of applying to top Universities and Cambridge].” 

  • No one from my school has ever gone to Cambridge, and no one in my family has done A levels, let alone go to university, so finding support was really important. This programme has helped fill in this gap and provide the support I would not have otherwise had. 

  • “I feel more at ease about applying to Cambridge, as the admissions process has been explained in depth and many myths about Cambridge have been dispelled” 

We are delighted to have been awarded funding from the Isaac Newton Trust Widening Participation and Induction Fund to build on the success of our pilot programme by launching the AEP 2022/23. This additional funding will allow us to expand the programme to support over 700 high-achieving state school students, and to provide an increased degree of academic support. In weekly sessions from November to March, students will engage with a comprehensive curriculum developed by subject experts to supplement and extend students’ current studies in a range of subjects. Year 12 (S5 – N.I., Y13 – N.I.) students can find out more and apply for this programme here: