On 18th October, Year 12 Leigh Aspire students from across LAT’s seven secondary academies had the opportunity to meet for the first time as we embarked on our inaugural university visit to Oxford. Arriving at St. Hugh’s College, one of the largest colleges at the University of Oxford with around 800 students, we enjoyed lunch alongside undergraduates in the dining hall, followed by a tour of the magnificent buildings and grounds.
Founded in 1886, St. Hugh’s was originally established to offer an Oxford education to women and as a result, boasts an impressive library because at the time, women were not allowed access to other university libraries, including the world famous Bodleian Libraries.
The new University of Oxford China Building is located in the grounds of St. Hugh’s, and we were impressed to see this modern, spacious building over five floors, which is home to 60,000 volumes of the Bodleian Libraries’ Chinese book collection, as well as a lecture theatre, state-of-the-art language laboratory and a green, ecologically-friendly roof terrace.
From St. Hugh’s we walked to Mansfield College, passing many of the university faculties along the way, including the impressive new Physics building which is currently under construction. By contrast, Mansfield is one of the smallest Oxford colleges and occupies what is considered to be one of the most attractive sites in the City. Close to the libraries and shops, it is also near local parks and the river Cherwell, and architecturally is much more what we expected from a traditional Oxford college, with Victorian spires and a beautiful green at its centre.
At Mansfield College we were met by a number of current undergraduates, all of whom had come from a less advantaged, state school background. Each spoke to the students about their personal experience of Oxford, and how they did not feel out of place in what is often incorrectly described as an elitist environment. They stressed the inclusive approach of the university and Helen Brooks, the Access & Admissions Administrator for the college, talked about the financial, academic and pastoral support that is available to all students.
After some thought-provoking tutorial-style sessions run by the undergraduates where students were encouraged to engage in both philosophical and maths-based discussion and debate, we finished our visit by walking into the city centre to see some of the famous sights, including the Bodleian Library and The Bridge of Sighs.
By Louise Badelow, Leigh Aspire Programme Manager