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Oxbridge ambitions supported by Seren Network

Some of Bridgend County Borough’s brightest young minds have attended the first of this year’s Seren Network events to help them target places at leading universities.

Based on last summer’s excellent GCSE results, 150 of the county borough’s highest achieving sixth formers will be invited to a series of workshops throughout this academic year to understand more about the competitive application process for Oxbridge and other top universities.

The Seren Network has been set up in partnership by Bridgend County Borough Council, sixth forms in secondary schools, Bridgend College and Welsh Government and follows the format of similar networks that have been created elsewhere to address a decline in Welsh applications to Oxford and Cambridge. Bridgend County Borough is also part of a wider regional hub with Neath Port Talbot and Powys.

This year’s launch event was held at Bridgend College where the talented teenagers and their parents met university representatives from Oxford, Bath and the Brilliant Club.

Many of the students then went on to attend the national Seren Network conference in Newtown last week. They can also apply for summer schools and other residential experiences at leading UK universities as well as Yale in the USA.

As other Seren Networks have proven fruitful in raising aspirations in other parts of Wales we were pleased to introduce one here in Bridgend County Borough for the first time last year. We were then even more thrilled to see that a student from Coleg Cymunedol y Dderwen gained a place in the foundation year at Lady Margaret Hall College, Oxford, for October 2018. She was the only student from Wales to be offered a place on this prestigious programme.

Six Bridgend County Borough students received offers from Oxbridge for 2018-2019. This meant that 28.5 per cent of local Oxbridge applications were successful, which represents a higher proportion than the average for Wales. Almost all of last year’s Seren Network students received offers from the Sutton Trust top 30 universities or other highly competitive universities. There are so many successful stories to celebrate. Our gifted teenagers should be encouraged to challenge themselves and aim high. Those that have the ability should certainly have Oxbridge and other leading universities on their radar, so this network has been set up to give them the best possible chance to fulfil their academic potential.

There’s obviously a lot of competition to get into these universities, so members of the network get support to help them stand out from the crowd and be fully prepared for the application process. They’ll be given practical tips on the application tests and interviews, and will also be able to build links and friendships with other bright sparks.

Councillor Charles Smith, Bridgend County Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Regeneration

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