A Level students participate in Cambridge residential

Over 300 students lived and studied in Cambridge as part of the STEM SMART Programme

Over 300 students participated in a residential in Cambridge last week, allowing them to live in college accommodation and learn in Cambridge University departments.

The residential was part of the STEM SMART widening participation programme, which aims to help state school students through the last 17 months of their A Level studies.

Dr Michael Sutherland, co-director of STEM SMART, said that the residential was “a chance for students to consolidate their learning so far, get a taste of life at Cambridge, and hear more about applying to University.”

Students could learn in university departments (Image credits: University of Cambridge)

On the residential, students were able to get a taste of university life and experience studying in the labs.  This was in addition to the support they received regarding university applications both to Cambridge and other top universities, which included advice for admissions tests and interviews.

Alongside the residential, the STEM SMART programme also offers support in the form of online supervisions with Cambridge academics and mentoring by Cambridge students regarding university life.

The programme is aimed at state school students who study mathematics with at least one additional subject including chemistry, physics, further maths, and, starting this year, biology at A Level or equivalent.

The programme aims to help narrow the gap in attainment, offset the disturbance to education caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and address skill shortages in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) sectors in the UK.

Some of STEM SMART’s positive impacts have been highlighted by Chisom Okafor, a 17 year old A Level student at a school in north London.

She claimed that STEM SMART has helped to increase her confidence, particularly in physics and maths.  She also praised the mentoring aspects of the programme, saying that “You have the opportunity to ask students about University life and how to deal with other things, like managing the workload” and that speaking to students “means you get a much more detailed answer.”

Chisom Okafor (Image credits: University of Cambridge)

Luc Jones, a mature student, also praises the programme.  He said “[he would] definitely recommend STEM SMART to others – it pushes you to revise, because it’s a target you want to reach each week, that’s separate from your college work.”

After just its first cycle, the successes of the programme are apparent.  Dr Lisa Jardine-Wright, co-director of STEM SMART, said: “The feedback we’ve had from students shows that confidence has increased in all subjects – maths, further maths, physics and chemistry.”

She also gives credit to the student mentors, saying that “the relationship the students have built with their Cambridge undergraduate mentors has been hugely important in building this confidence.”

Applications to join the 2023 STEM SMART cohort open today on the 1st of September. 

Feature image credits: University of Cambridge