Admissions and Outreach Blog

Farewell from the Project Administrator

by Marianne Talbot on Apr 11, 2018

Welcome to my last update as Project Administrator.
 
My year of leading the project is almost up, and it has flown by. I leave St Peter’s knowing that the project has got off to a really good start, with nine schools working with their mentors to reignite teachers’ passions for their subjects and enhance their knowledge and understanding of admissions at Oxford.
 
When I set the project up in Spring 2017, I thought it would be tricky to recruit schools – teachers are amongst the busiest people on the planet after all. However, I was pleasantly surprised that we had more applications than places, but of course then we had to make some tough decisions about which schools we should select.
 
We tried to choose schools that had the most to gain from working with the college, both in terms of improving their knowledge and understanding of the admissions process and life as a St Peter’s undergraduate, and in terms of teachers’ own subject knowledge, enthusiasm and capacity to benefit.
 
 
From feedback so far, it is obvious that the project is having a positive impact in all our ambassador schools – on the teachers, on their students, and on the school more generally:
 
  • I have recognised students with the potential to study at Oxford and have had positive discussions with them about working toward this goal
  • It has been an invaluable and enriching experience. It also reminds me why I love teaching as I enjoy sharing the information with students
  • After my first 2 sessions I acquired a greater depth of understanding in my chosen area. This has informed my teaching and I have delivered my topic more successfully to students than last year
  • The project provides a framework in which to plan and ensures that it remains at the forefront of priorities in what is a busy work schedule. It allows the member of staff a platform in which to talk to other colleagues and to address students on this matter
  • The event has raised the profile of Oxbridge - students are talking about trying for Oxford
It is also having a positive effect on St Peter’s academics who are mentoring the teachers:
 
  • It’s great to see how the things we’re discussing in our meetings can directly translate to discussions and work in the classroom
  • I sense that it is a big ask for [the ambassador] to read a couple of plays on top of contextual material on top of a full time job!
  • The sessions have been much more interactive and engaging [than expected]
We are of course looking to get more suitably qualified students to apply to Oxford, and St Peter’s in particular, not least from students with under-privileged backgrounds. This project builds on the original aim of the college to provide a low-cost Oxford education for promising students of limited means. It was wonderful to meet the ambassador teachers and senior leaders at the launch event in September, and I look forward to the 2018 application cycle with cautious optimism, to see if application numbers (and offers) start to increase.
 
The recruitment of Year Two ambassador teachers plus a few additional schools to join the second year of the project is getting underway, so watch out for future blogs announcing the new participants.
 
As I depart, I am handing over the day-to-day management of the project to Daniel Pugh-Bevan, Schools Liaison Officer, who can be contacted via schools@spc.ox.ac.uk.
 
Thanks to everyone at St Peter’s, and especially to all the mentors and ambassador teachers, for making my year here so enjoyable and productive. I look forward to seeing all the participants at the end-of-year exhibition and celebratory barbecue in June!

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 schools@spc.ox.ac.uk or Marianne Talbot at outreach@spc.ox.ac.uk.

Admissions Period FAQs

by Dan Pugh-Bevan on Nov 27, 2017

St Peter’s is very much looking forward to welcoming candidates to the college in the next few weeks.

Detailed below are answers to some Frequently Asked Questions that have been sent to the college. Please check back for regular updates.

Ensure that you have completed the Interview Reply Form before reading any further! 

Is there a dress code for the interviews at St Peter’s College?

No. You should wear comfortable clothes and shoes for interviews at Oxford. There may be times when you have to walk to other colleges for interviews, so it is also best to ensure you are dressed accordingly for rain or shine!

What activities will the college provide for candidates during their free time?

There is no formalised timetable of activities during free time. You should take advantage of the opportunity to explore Oxford while you are here. During the evenings, the Student Helpers may host activities in the Junior Common Room (the JCR), such as quizzes, table-tennis tournaments, film nights, and other opportunities to socialise with other candidates. You may also like to bring some coursework to complete, or a book to read. Any evening activities will be on an informal, drop-in basis, although it is recommended that you spend time in the Junior Common Room as much as possible.

How can I best prepare for my interviews?

This video, produced by Oxford Pathways, has lots of useful information about Oxford interviews. 

I am an international student. My flight is the day after my last interview. What accommodation provisions are in place in this scenario?

Complete the Interview Reply Form detailing your travel arrangements. We do what we can to accommodate people’s travel requirements should you be travelling a large distance to the college for interview.