The University of Cambridge’s Realise project recently ran three days of events, with colleges, departments and museums joining forces to give youngsters in care a taste of what university life is like.
Each of the days had a different theme. Trinity Hall and the Sainsbury Laboratory hosted a natural sciences day, with the students carrying out an experiment to explore how plants react to drought conditions.
Selwyn College organised a languages and culture day, including sample lectures on the traditions around the recitation of the Qur’an and on the links between language and national identity.
The third event, hosted by Queens’ College and the Scott Polar Research Institute was a science and environment day, which featured a session on the work of the British Antarctic Survey.
All three events included a talk from a current Cambridge student who went into care while still at school.
“When you’re in care, a lot of decisions are made for you,” he told the youngsters. “For me, university is the way to get my independence. It’s about standing on my own two feet and making my own decisions.”
The participants also heard about the university admissions process and were given college tours by current students.
Elle Zwandahl, an education practitioner at Suffolk County Council, has attended several of Cambridge’s Realise events and is keen for as many looked-after children as possible to go to them.
“I want them to know that they can access higher education and can have a university place if they want,” she said.
“Realise is about opening their eyes to higher education choices, improving their options and making it an expectation that university can be something for them.
“I see a difference each time we come. When I am driving back they say ‘I fancy going to university now, Elle’. Even if it’s not Cambridge it means a lot that they are thinking like that.”