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School students ‘graduate’ from unique university taster course

Access to Bristol graduates on the stage in the Great Hall, Wills Memorial Building Bhagesh Sachania Photography

Michala Muashindange Bhagesh Sachania Photography

Megan Gibbons Bhagesh Sachania Photography

Press release issued: 25 April 2019

Over 900 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 925 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 [24 April].

The high-achieving students are from over 80 different 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 over 1,500 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.

Many of the graduating students will go on to study at the University of Bristol in the coming years.  In 2018, the University welcomed 136 students who completed the scheme - a record number.

Lucy Collins, Director of Home Recruitment and Conversion, said: "The event is 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 Professor Sally Heslop, Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Bristol, as well as official photographs.

Access to Bristol requires students to attend a series of sessions, held at the University on Wednesday afternoons, studying one of 29 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 32 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 with support from major law firms.

Running alongside the Access to Bristol programme, last year 90 students enrolled on Pathways to Health Sciences. This two-year initiative offers tailored support to those students wishing to study Medicine, Dentistry or Veterinary Sciences. One third of this cohort have received an offer to study one of these three courses at the University of Bristol in 2019.

The University of Bristol has run Access to Bristol since 2006. In that time, around 3,500 students have completed the course and over 500 have gone onto study at the University.

Applications for the 2019/20 scheme will open in September 2019. More information is available on the Access to Bristol webpage.

Further information

Case studies

Michala Muashindange, 34, from Old Market.

Single mum-of-two Michaela is a mature student at the City of College. She's taken part in the Pathways to Health Sciences programme and is pursuing her dream of becoming a dentist. She said: "I never thought that I would be able to return to education as a single mum of two, especially on a course that is so competitive.

"Meeting the University staff at the open day and getting a warm response, which continued throughout the Pathway to Health Sciences scheme, gave me a lot of confidence and reassurance that I am doing the right thing by returning to education.

"When I start my degree in September, I will be the first person in my family to go to university.  One day I hope to be able to open my own dental practice.

"I would definitely recommend the scheme to any hopeful, excited future students. It will give you more of an insight into what to expect when considering whether to study at the University of Bristol.

"It also provides incredible support for preparing for an interview, which is vital for receiving an offer."

Megan Gibbons, 17, a pupil from Strode College in Street, Somerset.

Megan has taken part in Pathways to Law and shadowed a barrister as part of the programme.

She said: "I have really enjoyed being on the Pathways programme and it has really increased my knowledge about university life. I have learnt a lot about careers in law and have looked at areas that are outside of what I study in my A Level law course. 

"As Bristol is one of my most local universities, I was aware of it but I don’t know if I would have considered going there as strongly without joining the programme.

"Now I’ve got an offer to study law as a result of what I learnt on the course and my experience of the University. I especially love the Wills Memorial Building and the library!

"I would definitely recommend the course to other people. I have loved the opportunities it has given me, such as going to Parliament, debating in the Supreme Court and visiting inns of courts.

"My work experience was a great experience, and I learnt a lot about the CPS which I had little knowledge of before. After shadowing a barrister, I am strongly considering going on to do the Bar Professional Training Course after finishing my degree and training to become a barrister."

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