University develops Derby Scholars Programme with University of Oxford

25 June 2020

A vibrant community of Derby’s young scholars, created thanks to a partnership between the University of Derby and Corpus Christi College at the University of Oxford, are being brought together virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Derby Scholars Programme, part-funded by the Derby Opportunity Area and co-delivered by staff and academics at both universities, was launched earlier this year to address the low number of Derby city young people making applications to Oxbridge.

The vision, initially conceived by the University of Derby’s Widening Access team, was to create a community of young scholars across Derby who inspire each other, set high ambitions for themselves, and map effective pathways to achieve their goals.

Prior to the government’s COVID-19 measures being put in place, the programme had begun to provide a range of activities on site at the University of Derby for some of the city’s highest attaining pupils in Year 12 and Year 9, as identified by their school.

Now, to support Year 12 pupils preparing applications to Oxbridge before the 15 October deadline, and to continue support for Year 9 pupils, the programme is being offered through interactive online sessions, including academic skills sessions with University of Derby Library staff and application support sessions from University of Oxford staff.

There will also be an opportunity for pupils to take part in a virtual visit to Corpus Christi College, which will be followed by on campus visits to both universities when lockdown restrictions are lifted.

The development of the online programme coincides with the announcement that the University of Derby has been shortlisted for the NEON Higher Education Institution of the Year Award, which celebrates the transformative power that higher education can have and recognises key achievements in the widening access sector.

Krisha Bainham, Head of Widening Access at the University of Derby, said: “The Derby Scholars Programme was developed to address the barriers, both real and perceived, which may prevent very able young people in the city from achieving everything they are capable of and accessing opportunities.

“By participating in the programme all learners will develop the knowledge to make an informed choice about their future direction and the skills to give themselves the best chance to achieve their ambitions. The lockdown may have changed how we deliver activities but it has not dampened the enthusiasm of our Derby Scholars, who are actively engaged in the online sessions.”

Commenting on the programme’s initial sessions, which took place on site prior to lockdown, Armaan Shaikh, a Landau Forte College Derby student, said: “Derby Scholars has given me access to an environment that will help shape our future.”

Alex Campbell, a student from Allestree Woodlands School added: “The Derby Scholar programme has been very insightful and has helped me think more carefully about my university choices.”

Robin Murphy, Tutor for Admissions and Access at Corpus Christi College Oxford, added: “Corpus Christi College Oxford is extremely excited about the Derby Scholars programme, and further developing collaborative links with the University of Derby to offer tailored support to students across Derby.

“Having previously visited schools across Derby and Derbyshire, we were keen to adapt this sustained contact programme to maintain provision for the Derby Scholars despite the current challenging situation. We hope the focused and prolonged provision will enable students to develop the necessary skills, and provide them with the relevant information, to make successful choices for higher education.”

Derby was announced as an Opportunity Area in October 2016 with the aim of improving social mobility to provide every child and young person in the area with the chance to reach their full potential in life.

Professor Kathryn Mitchell DL, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Derby and Chair of the Derby Opportunity Area Partnership Board, said: “A key priority for the Derby Opportunity Area is to broaden horizons to ensure young people in Derby are more knowledgeable about future opportunities and more confident about accessing them.

“The Derby Opportunity Area firmly believes in the transformational nature of education and strives to inspire and create opportunities for all across our region and beyond, regardless of age, background or location. I am delighted that the University of Derby, working closely with Corpus Christi College Oxford, has developed the Derby Scholars Programme and adapted it for online, which will lay the foundations for a long-term engagement strategy with some of the city’s highest attaining pupils.”

Read more information about the Widening Access Team on the University of Derby website.

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