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Aiming Higher at Warwick

Physics and Drama
Physics and Drama
Originally published 2 August 2004

The University of Warwick gave fifty youngsters a taste of university life last week. The budding students were attendees of the ‘Aim Higher Summer School’ and they experienced all aspects of university life, including informal but informative lectures, demonstrations, a day out and, of course, lots of social events!

The University has been hosting summer schools since the summer of 2000. The ‘Aim Higher Summer School’ gives selected Year 11 students (aged 15-16) who are studying in England, a taste of university or college life for one week to help them decide whether to apply to do a degree and if so which subjects to study. All course and travel costs, as well as meals and accommodation, were provided free.

Organised by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) the Aim Higher Summer Schools programme forms part of their mission to widen access and improve participation in higher education. The summer schools are particularly focused on students who may not know anyone among their friends or family who have been to university and therefore do not have anyone to seek advice from other than their teachers and careers advisors.

The University programme is very broad, giving its attendees experience of a wide range of subjects. The students who attend Warwick’s Summer School are recruited from schools in the West Midlands and they get to experience residential life as a student at one of the best universities in the UK. Whilst at Warwick they stay in halls of residence, eat in campus restaurants, have access to the sports centre and take part in lots of additional activities.

After having registered and checked-in on Monday 26th July, and after having participated in icebreakers and group challenges, the summer school scholars attended informal, but very informative, philosophy and biological sciences lectures.

On Tuesday, the students were treated to practical demonstrations which illustrated some of the major rules of physics within the context of 'The Elegant Universe'. The students learnt about the chemistry of stars using spectroscopy, the science of sun-spots, the temperature of the galaxy, propulsion, rotation and the measurement of stars.

However, the day did not pass without some drama as the students also attended classes given by Gemma Allen of the Royal Shakespeare Company, who gave them some fun exercises to do. The human knot exercise helped the children to integrate with each other and also encouraged teamwork. The children had to work together to form a human knot and they also needed to work efficiently as a group so as to successfully de-knot themselves. Other exercises included acting out various scenarios, the aim of which was to build confidence amongst the participants.

As the week progressed the students had the choice of visiting the National Space Centre at Leicester or to attend the ‘Exhibition Trail and Space Theatre’ at Warwick. During the week students also learnt about Sport at Warwick, Chemistry, and Film Studies. Careers advice was also available to the students.

Aim Higher Summer School OscarsIt wasn’t all work and no play for these students. As the Aim Higher Summer Schools are meant to give a taste of university life there is a need to cover all aspects of living at university and which also means the opportunity to have fun outside of the classroom (or lecture theatre). Throughout their week at Warwick the children attended lots of social events, including a BBQ, fun with giant outdoor games, a film night, a Night At The Oscars gala dinner, and a disco on Thursday evening.

Speaking about his week at Warwick, Aim Higher Summer School attendee Richard Bromhall said:

“I found the vast majority of the lectures compelling, fascinating and extremely helpful, with regards to my career. They have given me an insight to what different subjects are like and the requirements of each individual subject..... I thoroughly enjoyed Warwick and I hope to have the opportunity to return to Warwick in a few years’ time."

Returning to Warwick as an undergraduate, after attending Warwick’s Summer School event at back in 2000, is exactly what Shahista Zamir did. Shahista has just graduated with a Law degree from Warwick and this year she returned to the summer school as a member of staff. Commenting about the summer school programme Shahista said:

“I came here with my friends in 2000 and it made university seem more accessible to all of us.”

Only the passing of time will tell whether any of this year’s summer school attendees will come back to Warwick to study. Regardless of the decisions these youngsters make about their educational aspirations, it is hoped that they will all have fond memories of their week at Warwick.