Teenage school students from across the Yorkshire and Humber region trialled university life in a three-day residential at the University of York in March, during which they explored the academic and social sides to higher education.
Year 10 students were given a comprehensive tour of the University and city over the course of the residential – part of a new programme, Shine, set up by the Widening Participation team this year to help school children from Years 6 to 11.
Anything is possible if you really try. It pays off to go to university
The initiative was created with the aim of encouraging bright teenagers who may not have had the confidence or aspirations to apply for a leading university to start regarding it as a viable future path.
Undergraduates and postgraduates from the University helped demystify many aspects of academia, talking the school students through unfamiliar concepts such as lectures and group presentations.
Each of the 130 teenagers picked five academic sessions to attend out of a selection of thirteen, organised by departments on Heslington East and West.
The Department of Psychology arranged a session in which students were given ‘prism’ glasses to wear, which temporarily distorted vision and demonstrated how eyesight automatically recalibrates itself.
In the Electronics session, meanwhile, students were shown how to design basic circuit units which could control traffic lights, and in the Department of Theatre, Film and Television they learned about Yorkshire-based playwright Sir Alan Ayckbourn.
The school students were also informed about the social side to university, with current York students presenting Student Life sessions that exhibited a wide variety of societies, including Samba Drumming and Glee Singers.
The winning presentation
Things you'll take away,
at the end of the day,
are knowledge, ideas and memories.
You'll claim experience,
with friends and independence.
The University of York gives all these,
although it's full of ducks and geese.
English, Drama and even Math,
at the end of the day you go and crash.
You go back to your accommodation,
relieve stress and frustration.
Have a shower and brush your teeth,
say "ahhh", what a relief.
Have loads of fun
and once you’re done,
you study in the library.
is sweet as pie,
you've learnt, you've loved, you've lived!
The Yorker, a student-run campus media outlet, organised a writing competition in which the article judged best would be published online. The winners, Bethany and Kira, wrote a ‘GCSE students’ guide to University accommodation’ that specifically extolled the virtues of James College, where they stayed over the course of the residential.
The students were shown around the city centre with the help of a Ghost Tour, giving them a glimpse of York’s rich history. They were also taken for dinner in the old Assembly Rooms, now an ASK Italian restaurant.
At the end of the programme the students were given the opportunity to show what they had learned during their experience by presenting to a large audience including Dr Jane Grenville, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Students.
One student acted out a poem about university life as he had experienced it (right), and this was named the winning presentation by a panel of judges.
The Deputy Vice Chancellor gave each student certificates acknowledging their experience in York, and they were also given Easter Eggs and Shine hoodies.
For a majority of the teenagers, the residential was the longest time spent away from their families and homes, and in their unilaterally positive reactions to the experience many of them spoke of their newly developed independence.
Here is some of the feedback collected from the students:
“Big thanks to everyone. I had a great time and can’t wait for future visits to the University.”
“Anything is possible if you really try. It pays off to go to university”
“I had the opportunity to try new subjects that I have never heard of or thought about. I hadn’t studied Electronics before, but really enjoyed studying this and am now considering this as a possible future area of study. Attending the residential has reinforced that I want to go to uni”.
“The residential was amazing and everyone wants another trip there. There’s nothing to improve on – it was amazing.”