UNIQ Spring School- University of Oxford
I recently attended the UNIQ spring school in the Easter break, when you first think of “summer school” it does not sound like something you want to spend your time off school attending. I applied to UNIQ on a whim, not thinking seriously about the prospects of applying to a university like Oxford; even for a summer school.
UNIQ is a 5-day residential trip to the University of Oxford, whilst there you live in a college, participate in academics during the day and social events in the evening. While I was there I stayed at Mansfield College; which has a high proportion of state school students during the term time. The accommodation was 1st Year undergraduate rooms; I was lucky and got an en-suite and a double bed, which was a novelty as the room was twice the size of my own room at home. The course I attended was Geography: Living in the Anthropocene, I was unsure on how I would cope with the academic sessions throughout the week but all of the staff made their research relate to our course; I even had to use GCSE Physics equations that I had definitely forgotten!
The structure of the 5-days meant that we spent 9:30-12 in lectures and then 2-hour lunch; after lunch, we went back to the school of Geography for practical’s 2pm-4pm. On Wednesday we got to complete fieldwork at New College. In the evenings we often had dinner at other colleges with the whole group of UNIQ students, then participated in workshops in the evening to help us feel more confident when we apply to University later in the year.
It is part of the University widening access programme, it does have certain non-academic requirements, but these are individual to where you live. You can apply to it during Year 12; when you are in Sixth Form there is a lot of talk about your next step, and you think I have barely started my a-levels and I already have to think about what is next?
Before attending UNIQ I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to go to University; it just seemed like the given route to take but now I can’t wait to leave school. Your challenged personally and academically; you have to learn to be independent and to not give up as soon as you start to think you’re out of your depth. The days are full-on and intense, however the 5 days I spent there were some of the best days ever. Whilst I was there I met so many like-minded people from up and down the UK, you are all in the same boat and you will all share the love for your chosen subject. Through doing UNIQ I got to speak to academics who are so enthusiastic and passionate about what they teach and study, this really reflects onto the students, it has reaffirmed by decision to pursue Geography in higher education.
One week after coming home from Oxford it has really given me a push and the motivation I need to get good a-levels as I now have something to aim towards. It has also made the application process (that I have to start later this year) a lot less daunting. The theme for the week was “No Limits”, that everyone can achieve great things, this may not mean going to Oxford or Cambridge but believing in yourself and your own capabilities.
I would highly recommend applying for UNIQ and other similar programmes when you are in Year 12; even if you don’t enjoy the academic side by the end you will still have gained friends and independence from the experience. It is competitive, they also offer UNIQ digital to some of the students they cannot offer the residential to; this gives you opportunities to speak to current undergraduate students and gain information on applying to university. You have nothing to lose by applying and so much to gain if you get offered the opportunity. If I could do it all again, I would in a heartbeat.
Caitlin Davie Letchford, Year 12 Geography Student