St Peter’s College Foundation Schools Ambassador Project Update

St Peter’s College Foundation Schools Ambassador Project Update

Jan 24, 2018

This project has completed its first full term of operation, and stories about it have appeared in press local to several ambassador schools (the Bournemouth Echo, Lynn News, Eastern Daily Press, and the Hertfordshire Mercury), as well as nationally in Schools Week and in the Oxford Mail.

The project was mentioned in the Vice-Chancellor’s Oration in October 2017:

“St Peter’s is launching a new initiative linking the college with nine secondary schools focused on providing professional development to teachers and educating them about the University admissions process.”

Dr Marina MacKay conducts a mock interview with a current St Peter's student

Several stories have been posted on the St Peter’s website and on the university website. The ambassador schools have also published stories on their own websites.

We wanted to share a few key facts:

  • Seventeen members of staff from the nine ambassador schools attended the launch event on 22 September.
  • Thirteen members of staff stayed overnight in college, to get a better feel for the undergraduate experience, including breakfast.
  • Eight academic mentors attended the launch event, and the ninth has since visited the ambassador school to meet with the ambassador teacher and a group of students.
  • Numerous academic mentoring sessions have taken place, face-to-face and via Skype.
  • Baseline data has been collected from telephone interviews with all nine ambassador teachers, and launch event feedback from all 17 school-based participants.

It has been great getting to know our ambassador schools a little better, hear what they already know about the college, and find out what they want to know more about. For example, with a couple of exceptions, they initially had very limited knowledge of St Peter’s College specifically – something that is no longer the case. They had varying levels of confidence about their students’ ability to fit in socially at Oxford and cope academically as an undergraduate here, although one summarised thus:  St Peter’s is a “small and friendly college – less daunting”. 

The ambassador teachers worry about their students having the initial confidence to apply and/or performing well in interviews – other potential barriers we are working hard to remove.

But what has perhaps been most interesting has been hearing about the wide variety of ways the ambassador teachers work so hard to inspire their students to academic excellence. A few examples are:

  • holding debates
  • exposing their students to academic heavyweights
  • encouraging questions
  • never take anything for granted
  • telling extracurricular stories…

The feedback from the launch event was very positive, with all sessions being well-received, especially the mock interview carried out by a St Peter’s teaching fellow with a current undergraduate. Participants also found attending the evening dinner and having the opportunity to meet college staff especially useful.

We are hoping to be able to expand the number of schools involved from September 2018. For more information, or to join the waiting list to apply to join the project, please email Daniel Pugh-Bevan at or Marianne Talbot at