November 11

Educational Comment from the Senior Leadership Team - Mrs Chandler-Thompson

Developments in post-school options

Supporting your daughters in Sixth Form through the maze of applying for universities or jobs can be a bewildering experience. Compared to when many of us applied to university, there seems to be an ever-expanding range of choices of institutions, courses and countries to consider. Add the question of finance and job prospects in a tough market into the equation and the whole prospect can be somewhat overwhelming. The following is a digest of some of the more current developments affecting our students:

Apprenticeships and Sponsored Degrees

Increasingly, industry is looking to recruit school graduates through apprenticeships or sponsored degrees, offering students a chance to acquire a degree without the burden of a significant debt. In an interview with the Times on November 8th 2016, Sir James Dyson announced the opening of a research and development campus in Wiltshire, ‘The Dyson Institute of Technology’, in partnership with the University of Warwick. He is looking to recruit 100 engineering students annually (with AAB in subjects including Maths and Science). Successful applicants will have their tuition fees paid and receive a salary of up to £16,000, working on live projects as well as benefitting from lectures and laboratory work.

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European Universities

Growing numbers of students are considering applying to European universities for degrees, particularly medicine. Universities like Humanitas University in Milan, or the University of Prague offer a medical degree taught entirely in English. Fees are competitive and students benefit from a whole new cultural experience too; resilience and capacity for learning languages is essential for interested girls. Of course, the impact of Brexit upon such options are yet to be fully understood.

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Unconditional Offers

UK Universities are becoming increasingly flexible in their offers to Sixth Form students, since the government lifted the cap on undergraduate numbers. Our recent experience suggests that unconditional offers are making a reappearance in the UCAS system (several of our girls received unconditional offers last year) and that while typical offers are pitched very high, universities are anecdotally more flexible if a student misses an offer by one grade on results day.

Private Universities

There are also more flexible courses being offered by private universities, such as the University of Buckingham, headed by former Wellington Headmaster, Sir Anthony Seldon. Offering two year degree courses, with considerably lower fees and a more intimate campus feel; it is a new option for students to consider. Uniquely, Buckingham offers a January start to the academic year, allowing students to apply once A-level results are known.

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The Oxbridge Application Process

The Oxbridge application process, in the light of the demise of AS-level, is increasingly reverting to in-house aptitude tests pre-interview, in order to pre-select interview applicants. Cambridge has re-introduced aptitude tests this year; a long-established practice at Oxford. At school, departments work with the girls to familiarise themselves with the format and gain confidence in the necessary requirements.

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Choosing a Degree

The process of long-listing universities has become a much more methodical and evidence-based process than it was in the 90s when we simply picked from the Russell Group and only considered subjects we had studied in school. Blackheath High Sixth Form girls now benefit from school enrolment in the programme ‘Unifrog’. With access to the details of graduate employment, tuition costs, teaching ratings and average salaries post-graduation, this programme allows students to make evidence-based decisions about suitable courses to apply for and even suggests related courses that they might not have considered.

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Help from GDST Alumnae

One of the many advantages of attending a GDST school, is the access to a huge network of more than 70,000 GDST graduates at university and in the world of work. GDST has begun to set up university and career networking groups that our graduates can gain access and contribute to. A first step might be asking questions about a particular university course, but the potential to make mentoring contacts or network for future careers are limitless.

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Of course there is plenty of support from our universities and careers team for the girls. Guidance is drip-fed each year, with a more explicit focus on higher education as girls embark upon GCSEs. At Higher Education evenings, parents are also welcomed to hear the advice that girls are receiving, and benefit from hearing expert speakers and admissions tutors.

The message is: it’s a buyers’ market out there. Well-educated, ambitious and self-motivated students such as ours, have a breadth of exciting options to consider. With good research, sage advice and thoughtful preparation, there are exciting pathways for all to choose from.

Mrs Chandler-Thompson

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