5 August 2020

Breaking down barriers to university with a Sheffield summer school

The University of Sheffield has partnered with The Elephant Group - who encourage bright pupils in state schools to apply to Russell Group universities - to deliver an online virtual summer school for students from under-represented areas.

The Elephant Group summer school t-shirt

In less than 10 weeks from inception to closing applications, the social mobility group has recruited a cohort of 170 pupils from a range of backgrounds to attend their summer school. Many of these students come from BAME and other under-represented groups, with almost half having no family connection to university - a major confidence barrier to entering higher education.

Through the summer school these high achieving students will be equipped with the skills they need to apply to top universities, to follow their dreams of studying in areas from healthcare to life sciences to the humanities. Students and staff from the University of Sheffield, along with colleagues from Exeter University, will lead these school pupils through the vast array of challenging and unfamiliar situations that may stand between them and university. 

Sheffield's student speakers include three ambassadors who have come from widening participation backgrounds themselves, so have personal experience of the concerns and fears many of these pupils have.

Summer school session screen grab

The summer school includes sessions for students on the application process and how to apply to specific courses, to the basics of what student life is like at university and how to budget. There are also talks on myth busting aspects that may be unfamiliar to people with no experience of personal connection to university education. 

One of the key supporters of the scheme is Sheffield alumnus James (Geography, 1994, 1997) and his wife Aimee. James made a gift to the University of Sheffield to fund the summer school, including paying for the student ambassadors’ time, as well as sim cards for mobile internet and prizes to allow many of the pupils to access the programme.

I think it is incredibly important for state school students like you to attend top universities, and progress on to some of the most competitive careers in medicine, law, journalism, teaching, engineering and beyond. Only then can we truly broaden social mobility and diversify some of the UK’s most ‘elite’ professions for the better.”

James

Geography alumnus and Summer School supporter

In an introduction to the students taking part of the summer school he said:

“I attended a non-selective state school like you and studied at The University of Sheffield, studying Geography and then a PhD before embarking on a career in consultancy. Today, I’m a Partner at Deloitte, but I’ve never forgotten the experience and importance of attending a top university and the doors this opened for me to pursue a rewarding and interesting career.”

“You have all this to look forward to, and I hope you’ll make the most of the Summer School opportunity to really get a feel for what experiences you can gain if you choose to continue your studies in Sheffield.”

“I think it is incredibly important for state school students like you to attend top universities, and progress on to some of the most competitive careers in medicine, law, journalism, teaching, engineering and beyond. Only then can we truly broaden social mobility and diversify some of the UK’s most ‘elite’ professions for the better.”

James has gone even further in his support by funding a series of scholarships at the University of Sheffield for students who complete the summer school programme and apply to Sheffield in the autumn.

We are immensely grateful for the imaginative ways our alumni support their alma-mater and continue the ambition of our founders to bring a first-class education to young people from all backgrounds. We can’t wait to (virtually) welcome our summer students to campus in August!