Road to enrichment: ensuring students are accepted into top universities

Posted 12 April 2016
Study at Bellerbys

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Kevin Brady writes about the importance of enrichment programmes and his own experience looking at the student response to extracurricular programming at Bellerbys.

Article first appeared in The Pie News on April 7, 2016

Bellerbys College is a GCSE and A Level college with four campuses in the UK. Here Kevin Brady writes about the importance of enrichment programmes and his own experience looking at the student response to extracurricular programming at Bellerbys.

Universities want graduates to be well-rounded, highly employable human beings. All top HE institutions ask for evidence of ‘supercurricular’ activity – we call it ‘enrichment’.

While exam results at our colleges were consistently high, we knew universities wanted to see extra-curricular skills, not just A*s at A Level. Because of this, in 2014, we integrated ‘enrichment’ into our curricula: a programme of classes, trips, projects, lectures and competitions.

Now, 18 months on, we’ve taken stock and have been pleased to see an excellent response across the board.

The reception in-market from agents has been very positive, particularly toward the academic enrichment concept. This part of the programme features classes in which students explore topics outside the main syllabus, from creative coding to classical archaeology. Classes are aligned with our four pathways: science & engineering, business & economics, creative arts and humanities.

Parents on the other hand have found the Oxbridge elements of the programme particularly attractive. Since the programme began we’ve introduced an Oxbridge pathway, with weekly Oxbridge style tutorials in which students discuss anything from current affairs to sample Oxbridge questions. Oxbridge ’starred classes’ also further students’ knowledge of subjects such as architecture or business enterprise. An extensive, varied understanding of a student’s chosen subject, as well as confidence in discussing related ideas, is essential for applications to Oxbridge and other top unis.

Parents also responded well to the nationally accredited certificates and awards that students can participate in, such as the Physics Olympiad, the ARTiculation prize and the Crest Award in science & engineering. Because of this feedback, and because universities view them as very desirable, we’re developing this programme and looking to increase entries in future.

Bellerbys College partners with over 70 of the UK’s top universities and we know that our HE contacts view the programme as key to building comprehensive university portfolios. For example Doris Bechstein, higher education advice manager at the University of Bath, one of Bellerbys’ university partners, recently fed back to us that participation in enrichment activities enables students to write more targeted personal statements, and how they are crucial to showing a high level of commitment and engagement with a chosen subject – sentiments echoed by many of the universities we work with.

Most importantly however, students are enjoying and supporting the programme – it’s been very useful in complementing A Level and GCSE programmes in practical ways. For example, in class students learn the core curriculum and subject theory, and in the enrichment programme they put theory into practice. It’s a practical application of the core syllabus.

As we enter year two of the enrichment programme, we have seen participation increase. While our core enrichment focus is part of the syllabus, two new student-led clubs have been established this year: a student magazine and a model United Nations, giving students the chance to use what they’ve learned in their A Level politics classes within a mock geopolitical framework. These are both great examples of organic enrichment growth – students relish the enrichment opportunities and have grown the programme under their own volition (with support from our internal teams).

Though our programme has not been up and running for long, it has proved very successful so far. Oxbridge offers went up last year and our two most important demographics – students and parents – have responded with enthusiasm. In the future, we plan on expanding our lecture programme to include a wider range of guest speakers and we would also like to increase our involvement with local businesses and the community. This would see us pairing more students with business mentors and increasing involvement in community projects, engaging them in real-world learning experiences. It’s still early days but progress has been good and the results are clear: more engaged students, getting more offers from universities and making better undergrads.