Mention University of Oxford to most students and they think of imposing spires and a place to study that is out of their reach.

But ask Year 9 students at Futures Institute and the response is likely to be aspirational and far more positive after a group spent the day in the city.

In addition to its prestigious university, the pupils visited other iconic building including the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Bodleian Library.

The trip was organised as part of an Outreach and Access program organised by University of Oxford which this week reveals the students who successfully passed their admissions interviews to be offered places. 

Dr Catherine Pickup, Director of Project-based Learning at Futures Institute, revealed one of the highlights of the trip was lunch in the Harry Potter-style dining room at Trinity College where they were bowled over by the food choices on offer and the cutlery available to use!

She said: ‘’During the visit to Trinity College to hear about what life is like for students at Oxford, they [Futures Institute] were told it is open to everybody and that you don’t have to be posh and Oxford is accessible to everybody.

‘’We then went down to a Harry Potter like dining room and one of the students said: ‘Miss, you do have to be posh to be here! Look at all the different cutlery on the table.’

‘’There were fish knives, soup spoons and a wider range of cutlery than they’re used to at the school café where it’s plastic forks.’’


Dr Pickup said the recent day trip had broadened the cross-cultural awareness of those taking part.

She explained the visit to the Pitt Rivers Museum tied in with a project they were working on with Collins Aerospace about kites. At the Bodleian Library they enjoyed a maps exhibition that was on display before taking part in a maths workshop organised especially for STEM students at Futures.

Dr Pickup said: ‘’the day at Oxford encouraged the students to think university might be for them and opened up their eyes to what’s behind the high walls at Oxford [University] where they were made to feel welcome and believe that this is a place where they might belong.’’

Her sentiments were echoed by Emma Johnson an access officer at Trinity College who helped to oversee the visit from Futures Institute which is part of the Aspirations Academies Trust.

She said: ‘’As far as we’re concerned, we can’t start early enough [with visits from children]. As children get older, they are predicted certain GCSE results and A level results, the intention behind a day like this is to show the students what they can aim for and raise their aspirations.

‘’A day visit like this can also give the students more knowledge about what expectations are for a top university and Year 10 is the perfect year to be targeting for top universities.’’

Miss Johnson said: ‘’Access is a high priority for universities. The aim for Cambridge and Oxford is to get the best students and those students are not necessarily from a certain school or background.

‘’We want to encourage a diverse range of pupils to apply, they might not necessarily think that they are who we are looking for but they are who we are looking for. Diversity at top universities is very important.

‘’Generally the feedback has been positive and the students are always very curious about the possibility of going to a university like Oxford. They realise you can apply even if you’re not a straight 9s student. Sometimes all you need is to be passionate about one subject in particular and a lot of pupils might not realise that that one subject they really enjoy will be enough to get them in.

‘’Cambridge and Oxford are not looking for perfection. No one is perfect. Each application is judged as a whole and lots of different criteria are taken into.’’