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School students ‘graduate’ from unique university taster course

The latest 'graduates' of the Access to Bristol schemeBhagesh Sachania Photography

Tasnim Chowdhury, who has completed the Biomedical Sciences subject stream Bhagesh Sachania Photography

Press release issued: 27 April 2017

Over 700 students from schools and colleges across the Bristol area have ‘graduated’ from a unique scheme which gives them an insight into studying at university.

The Access to Bristol course, run by the University of Bristol, is designed to encourage and inspire pupils who might not otherwise consider going onto higher education.

A total of 727 local students, all studying for their A-levels or an equivalent qualification, have completed the programme this year and many of them celebrated with friends and family at a special ceremony in the Wills Memorial Building last night [26 April].

The high-achieving students are from 69 state schools and colleges within an hour's journey from the University. Many may not have previously considered going to university or are from families who don't have a history of attending university.

The scheme, which had almost 1,400 applicants, is hugely popular as it offers participants a guaranteed place or interview at the University of Bristol, should they later decide to apply for a place and meet the entry requirements. Many graduating students are also eligible for a bursary.

Lucy Collins, Head of UK Student Recruitment, said: "The event was a really special moment for all those who have taken part in the Access to Bristol programme, their families and friends.  The young people should be very proud of what they have achieved. 

"The scheme is about giving students an exciting and challenging experience and, for many students, it helps them to make that final decision about the subject they wish to study and see that university is a viable option.

"We hope this will be the start of their relationship with the University and that we’ll see many of them back in the Great Hall, graduating from their chosen degree programme in years to come."

In the style of a traditional graduation ceremony, family and friends gathered in the Great Hall of the Wills Memorial Building as students were presented with their certificates.

There were speeches by alumni and Professor Judith Squires, Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Bristol, as well as official photographs.

Hannah Ahmed completed the Access to Bristol scheme herself and has recently graduated from the University with a First in Law. She is currently studying with us for an MSc in Socio-Legal Studies and will soon be embarking on a PhD. Fellow Law graduate Elaine Noble, who retrained as a psychotherapist, also shared her experiences.

Access to Bristol requires students to attend a series of sessions, held at the University on Wednesday afternoons, studying one of 26 subject streams.

Each session is designed to give students an idea of what it is like to study at the University, working with academics and current students who can offer advice and guidance about higher education and their chosen area of study.

Advice is also on hand to help students write a good university application and prepare them for the challenges of university life, such as managing their finances.

Also attending the ceremony were around 31 students who completed the Pathways to Law programme, which is similar to Access to Bristol but concentrates on Law and takes place over a two year period, including the academic taster sessions but also work experience, court visits and an e-mentor. 

Pathways to Law was set up by The Sutton Trust and The Legal Education Foundation, with support from major law firms.

The University of Bristol has run Access to Bristol since 2006. In that time, more than 2,000 students have completed the course and over 300 have gone onto study at the University.

Tasnim Chowdhury, a 17-year-old Year 12 student at Abbeywood Community School, hopes to study Medicine after taking part in the Biomedical Sciences subject stream of Access to Bristol.

She would be the first member of her family to go to university. Tasnim said: "I was considering going to university but didn't feel confident about my decision because I thought it would be really difficult and perhaps not for me. But Access to Bristol has given me to confidence to apply for medicine and I’m hoping to put Bristol as my first choice.

"The lectures and lessons were challenging but I understood what we were being taught and it has inspired me to research subjects further, such as antibiotic resistance. It's definitely made me more motivated and getting into university is now my goal."

Dale Morgan graduated from the scheme in 2009 and went on to study Biochemistry. He's now a trainee tax advisor at Ernst and Young in Bristol.

Dale said: "Access to Bristol really spurred me on with regard to my ambition to go to Uni, and was the basis of about 50 per cent of my UCAS personal statement. Being able to relay first hand exactly why I wanted to study biosciences and how I could use my experiences on Access to Bristol to help me was incredibly helpful.

"Probably most importantly, having been on Access to Bristol almost certainly secured me my place at Bristol to study Biochemistry and having a world class university on my CV has in turn allowed me to secure my current job at one of the biggest accounting firms in the world."

  • Applications for the 2017/18 scheme will open in September 2017. More information is available on the Access to Bristol webpage.
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