University hubs to offer pupils specialist support


Some of Wales’ brightest 6th-formers will now be able to access specialised support to help them gain entry into the UK’s top universities.

The Seren: Supporting Wales’ Brightest programme was developed following the Oxbridge review that was commissioned by the Welsh government in 2012 and led by Paul Murphy MP.

The review looked at why Welsh students were less successful than their English and Northern Irish counterparts at gaining entry into the leading universities.

It found that low self-esteem and a lack of academic self-confidence were part of the problem.

Following on from the recommendations of the review, the Welsh government is establishing three different geographical pilot hubs that will allow some of the most talented and able local students to gather together to access high-level support and mentoring.

One hub will cover the Flintshire and Wrexham areas, another will cover Swansea and the third will cater for learners in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf. In order to ensure national coverage of the scheme, a further nine hubs will be identified and rolled out in 2015/16.

“Often learners who progress to top universities have benefited from things like work experience arranged by a family friend or the help of a teacher with experience of navigating a particular university admission process,” said education minister Huw Lewis.

“The idea of the hubs is that they remove this element of chance and allow our most academically talented pupils to develop their skills, confidence and intellectual thinking in a supported environment.”

Mr Murphy added: “Studying at Oxford University was a life-changing experience for me and I want more Welsh students to have the kind of opportunities I had.”

The Welsh government said the hubs will work “to build clear and strong communication channels” with the UK’s leading institutions and they in turn will benefit from access to groups of motivated and talented students. 

Oxford and Cambridge universities have already been working with the first three hubs to develop these links.

Each of the hubs consists of a cluster of local secondary schools and further education colleges, covers a catchment of around 1,100 A level students, and will offer between 220 to 270 places for students.

The hubs will receive a one-off payment of £50,000 of Welsh government funding to cover their set-up.

Forty-one partner schools and colleges are participating in the first three hubs.



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