Chiefs at one of the country’s leading universities have been on Wearside to help raise aspirations among school pupils in the area.
Dame Lynne Brindley, the Master of Pembroke College and Samina Khan, head of Undergraduate Admissions for the university both came to speak to Year 10 and 11 students at Southmoor Academy.
Their visit was part of the launch of the new OxNet hub for Sunderland.
The hub is based at Southmoor and is the first of its kind in the North East.
Run by Dr Katarzyna Kosior, Honorary Fellow of Durham University and a published academic in her own right, as well as the Raising Aspirations Co-ordinator for Southmoor Sixth Form, it is designed to raise aspirations across the region, both by improving the numbers of students applying to Oxford directly, but also by encouraging students to aspire to courses at Durham, Cambridge and other top universities in the UK and beyond.
The launch took place at the National Glass Centre, where students from across the region attended alongside the Pro Vice Chancellor of Durham, Professor Alan Houston, Lesley Griffin of Sunderland University, and academics from all the major regional universities.
Dr Peter Claus, whose brainchild the OxNet program is, was in attendance, and also accompanied Dame Lynne to Southmoor.
“The whole project is hugely exciting,” commented Steve Garrett, principal at Southmoor Academy.
“We’re looking to open up university education of all kinds to our students.
“We really do believe that Southmoor students can achieve the very best - just look at last year.
“We’re already sending students to Cambridge, to Durham, to Veterinary school - even to university in Paris and Ohio.”
Dame Lynne spoke to the students about what the experience of studying at Pembroke College was like, and took questions from them on a range of topics.
She said she was particularly fascinated by the research topics they had themselves identified as part of Southmoor’s innovative new Honours Programme.
“Our Honours students have already been to Durham university, and had a study day at Sunderland with PhD students,” explained Dr Kosior.
“They have independently identified topics to study ranging from nutrition to Artificial intelligence, via the impact of quantum theory on the history of physics.
“For 15-year-olds I find that hugely impressive.”