Skip to content ↓

The Times They are a Changin’

From the Headmaster....

Just like our children, we parents, have rites of passage, some joyous, some challenging. The delight of the birth, the first word, the first day at school; the triumph of much longed-for selection for a team, the despair of an audition or music exam not passed. The terror of the first boyfriend or girlfriend; exam results…….

This summer, I had one of the experiences that comes to many parents of a certain age – the start of the university career!

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Daughter number one was off to Queen’s University in Belfast, to study languages. I felt guilty when I took my first trip with her to Northern Ireland. Not because I was leaving her in a far flung country, but because this was an area of the country I had never even considered visiting, and was now enjoying touring the university, the city, and even paying homage to a few Game of Thrones sites.

Queen’s is a beautiful, highly ranked and historic university in a great city, and the bits of Northern Ireland I have managed to see so far have left me wanting much more.

I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)

The whole experience has got me thinking more about the range of universities available to our Sixth Formers. A good proportion of our pupils go to universities within an hour or so, and why not? There are some outstanding courses at some nearby fine seats of learning.

Fewer go greater distances; our first Sixth Form Head Boy went to Southampton, and later ended up in Canada. A more recent one is in Exeter. Two in the last 2 years have gone to Belfast, one to Scotland, two to the Netherlands. A widening of the horizons is definitely occurring.

Go West!

A few months ago, we hosted at Hill House a very popular and thought-provoking conference looking at applications to American Universities, where only a couple of recent leavers have gone so far. The academic, social and developmental opportunities there are immense.

With places at Oxford and Cambridge increasingly elusive, it is great to see some of our pupils seriously considering the likes of Harvard and Yale, especially bearing in mind some of the very generous scholarships available.

Money, Money, Money

With tuition fees and increased consumer choice, I imagine this broadening of horizons will accelerate further. It was interesting to see a recent report from the BBC saying that Oxbridge now take more pupils from Singapore than they do from Yorkshire! For a Headmaster of a school in South Yorkshire, this is a challenging and concerning statistic.

While UK and EU students pay up to £9,250 per year in fees, international students generally pay at least treble this; a history degree costs £27,285 per year for overseas students, while medicine costs £34,025. International students’ fees create a profit centre for British universities, subsidising teaching and research.

Recent admissions’ statistics suggest that pressure on these universities to do more for social mobility has in reality meant that they take fewer ‘privileged’ English pupils but have instead replaced them with ‘privileged’ overseas pupils.

Two elite private schools in Singapore – Raffles Institution and Hwa Chong Institution – have dominated Oxford’s overseas intake, receiving a combined 162 offers between them. A sobering thought for aspiring British academics…..

Pride (In the name of love)

I am proud to be a member of Cambridge University, but statistics like these do make me think that we now serve our pupils best by giving them as broad a range of options as possible

Indeed, this is one of our key roles; we have a superb, highly skilled and very knowledgeable team, who can give excellent advice, guidance and preparation for university entrance.

Whether it is information on where the best universities are for a particular course, guidance on personal statements and work experience, or preparation for interviews and tests, our Sixth Form team are expert at guiding parents and pupils through this crucial rite of passage.

The Long and Winding Road

I am very much looking forward to my next trip to Belfast.

And of course, the process is just about to start again with daughter number 2.

I am excited to see where this one takes me...