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School Students Encouraged To Go For Oxbridge

High flying young people who wouldn't normally consider going to Oxford or Cambridge because of money worries or their ethnic backgrounds are being targeted by the prestigious universities.

Oxbridge lecturers aimed to raise the aspirations of 900 students from schools and colleges in Brent and Harrow at a careers conference at Westminster University's Harrow campus in Watford Road.

Liz Walker of Lifetime Careers Brent and Harrow, who organised the event, said many pupils of state schools were put off applying to the two universities because they feared they would not fit. Those who did apply and reached the interview stage could be rejected because they lacked confidence and had not prepared properly.

"To some of them, going to one of the colleges at Oxford or Cambridge was like going for an interview at Buckingham Palace and being interviewed by Prince Charles," she said.

"What an event like this does is show prospective students that lecturers there are just ordinary people and are nothing to be afraid of, so they shouldn't feel put off."

The event included lectures on applying to Oxbridge, finance, studying individual subjects and gap year options. Speakers included current undergraduates.

Miss Walker has been working with Oxford and Cambridge for some time and holds mock interviews with students in local colleges. This is the second year the event has been held, and it attracted even more young people than last year: the organisers were expecting 500. Students from virtually every school and college in both boroughs attended, with pupils in their last year of GCSEs invited along for the first time.

Independent schools also took part because they had pupils still on assisted places who also needed the encouragement.

"The event also aimed to encourage applications to higher education in general," Miss Walker said.

"The responses we have had to it have been wonderful. But we couldn't have done it without the support of local organisations. For example, one pupil from Claremont High School in Kenton said 'It has further inspired me academically and I will take further education more seriously now'."

Roger Annan, headteacher of Canons Highs School in Cannons Park had 18 year-11 pupils at the event.

"They had a great day," he said, adding that it was very useful for pupils at this age to start thinking about university, not only because their GCSE grades were important, but with the transition to further education they might not have enough time to consider their options very thoroughly.

"A common phrase among some young people where Oxford and Cambridge are concerned is 'I'm not sure if I'm good enough, it's elitist'," Mr Annan said. "I think a lot of these impressions have been changed."

Miss Walker added: "The most important thing is that students choose the right course for them at the educational establishment which suits them best."

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