More than 90 school pupils from the south-east of England – many of them from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds – visited Oxford to see what life at university is really like.
The Year 9 students, from nine schools in Slough, High Wycombe and Oxford, were given the opportunity to meet current Oxford students and take part in university-style academic workshops to get them thinking about higher education.
The event was held as part of Oxford's widening access and participation programme, whose aims include making sure Oxford attracts the best students from every kind of background.
Dr Samina Khan, Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach at Oxford University, said: 'Oxford wants to attract the most able students from all backgrounds. That's why we run such a wide range of activities to encourage and support talented young people from backgrounds that are under-represented in higher education in general, and at Oxford in particular.
'British students from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds are among the groups that have been under-represented at Oxford, so events like this are really important in showing the students the range of courses on offer and demonstrating that if they have the academic ability, there's no reason why they shouldn't be aiming for a university like Oxford.'
Among the schools represented at the event was Sir William Ramsay School in High Wycombe. Michelina Henwood, a Spanish teacher and Year 9 academic leader at the school, said: 'This has been a great opportunity for our students to see that going to university is an achievable goal. Taking them out of school and bringing them somewhere like Oxford is something they're not used to, and it has made them feel special.
'The activities they've been doing have encouraged them to think for themselves like they would at university, teasing ideas out of them and making them feel like adults. Even little things like hearing about the University's Islamic Society have been really useful and can provide reassurance about university life for the students and their parents.'
Sarah Gosling, deputy head of sixth form at Baylis Court School in Slough, said: 'It's really important for our students to have opportunities like this. Many of them will be the first in their family to attend university, and often they don't have the confidence to apply to universities like Oxford. It's fantastic that they have been given the chance to visit Oxford and learn more about university. I hope that this event has sown the seeds that will motivate them from now until they apply to university in a few years' time.'
Ifra, a 13-year-old pupil at Baylis Court School, added: 'I've really enjoyed spending the day at Oxford. We've kind of been teaching ourselves, which is a bit different to what we usually do in school and means we're learning things without really knowing it. I've been thinking about going to university – maybe one with good science and maths courses, as I'd like to be a computer scientist.'
Ruha Akhtar, a first-year Oxford University history student from Milton Keynes, was one of the student mentors assisting at the event. She said: 'Events like this are incredibly significant for the students who attend. It allows them to see what they might be capable of.
'When I was at school, I took part in Oxford's UNIQ summer school for Year 12 state school pupils, and actually being here and experiencing the University and the city made it much easier to visualise myself studying here.'