CambridgeUni oxforduni

A number of 6th form students at Highams Park School every year apply for undergraduate places at Oxford or Cambridge University (elite universities like this are often known as Oxbridge as a form of shorthand) or other elite universities and colleges. Many of these universities belong to an organisation called the Russell Group (see below).

However we feel there are a number of others who may well be capable but believe that a place at an elite instution is either beyond them or not for them. We would like to see more students from Highams Park 6th Form grasping such an opportunity. We know the process of applying to these universities can be both confusing and frustrating for our students.

To prepare and support our students for the application and selection process and to make sure that they have the best possible chance of gaining places at these universities we have put together a special programme to support them. 

6th form students with the right potential will be identified early and invited to join a specially constructed programme that will help prepare them for the appllication process. 

Clearly such students must be hard working and have a realistic chance of achieving the very high grades necessary to apply to these elite institutions.

Students joining this  programme can expect:

  • Access to conferences, open-days and summer schools particularly for Cambridge and Oxford University.
  • Updates on events organised by the universities
  • Advice and guidance by staff that have special knowledge of the process of applying to these universities.
  • Advice and guidance with the UCAS process
  • Advice with preparation for entrance exams and interviews.
  • Opportunity to meet and talk to ex Highams Park students who have been, or are now at these universities.

img_0086_edited-3.jpgIn return we expect students joining the programme to be inquisitive, hard working and highly motivated. Students are also encouraged to take a full part in Highams Park School life. This may involve joining the school's debating society, writing for the college magazine, raising money for some of the charities the school support or becoming a member of the school council.

russellgroup.jpgThe Russell Group, an organisation that represents some of the top universities in the UK, have recently published a guide to choosing subjects at Advanced level. All potential 6th form students should read it, particularly if you are considering applying to one of these elite universities after 6th form. You can download a copy of this guide from our 6th form section on the Downloads page.

About Oxford and Cambridge Universities

CambridgeUni oxforduni
The ancient universities of Oxford and Cambridge date back to the 13th Century and,  by any measure of excellence, they still rank amongst the very best academic institutions not just in the UK but in the world.

cambridge1Both universities have outstanding reputations for their research, facilities, student support and, perhaps most importantly for the prospective undergraduate, their unique teaching system based on the tutorial or supervision. What distinguishes Oxford and Cambridge from all other universities, apart from extraordinarily beautiful mediaeval (and later) architecture, is the tutorial system whereby each undergraduate is taught by an individual Tutor who is a leading expert in his or her field.

supervisionTutorials (or supervisions' at Cambridge) are given once or twice a week either individually or as a pair when undergraduates present, defend and discuss the written work (typically an essay or solutions to a set of problems) that they have prepared in advance of the tutorial. Discussion of the essay or problems will be the focus of the tutorial but it is quite likely to be only the starting point for a wide-ranging intellectual joust that challenges not just the undergraduate's knowledge but his or her ability to reason logically, develop arguments and to consider things from a new perspective.

Tutorial_03Tutorials usually take place in an undergraduate's own college (certainly in the first year) but it is almost inevitable that tuition will be provided by a specialist from another college at some stage (especially in the final year).

Both Oxford and Cambridge Universities constitute a federation of colleges. Depending on a particular undergraduate's course, the Faculty/Department may play a greater part in his or her life (notably for scientists who have centralised practicals, etc.) but it is the college that offers a place (subject to any departmental criteria) and that is the focal point of an undergraduate's academic and social life. It is also undergraduates' literal home for three-four years and, away from their parents perhaps for the first time, they will find that the degree of pastoral care is outstanding.

oxford1.jpgDespite the image perpetuated by the media, Oxbridge is not elitist' other than in the proper sense that both universities select the very best candidates on purely academic criteria. Nor need an Oxbridge education be disproportionately expensive. Indeed the converse is the case, as all colleges subsidise board and lodging and many, if not most, offer grants for books, and travel as well as prizes and scholarships/exhibitions for those who are particularly gifted, and all colleges have hardship funds for cases of genuine hardship.

Application is now simple: just complete your UCAS application on-line. You must, however, remember that there is a deadline for a completed application via UCAS; the School will need to have time to check personal statements, write references and generally oversee your application, which really means that draft applications need to have been prepared earlier than this. Then, depending on your choice of course, applicants may be required to submit written work and/or take one of the many aptitude tests such as BMAT, LNAT or, increasingly, TSA. Cambridge in particular may also require you to provide supplementary information with the possibility to submit an additional personal statement. Candidates who meet the basic requirements will be invited to interview in December and may be asked to take other tests at the same time.


Many applicants will have excellent grades at GCSE (an average of 5-8 A*s) and AS; certainly all will have 3 As predicted for A2 and Cambridge has stated that an A* will be a component of any offer (just as they already scrutinise UMS for signs of high achievement, i.e. >90%). However, Oxbridge is not looking for the solid ¬Ďall-rounder' but the candidate who has a real interest in, and passion for, his or her chosen subject and is able to communicate that enthusiasm at interview. It is impossible to overstate the importance of the interview in the selection-process and it is essential that a candidate be capable of articulating his or her motivation to read a subject that goes beyond merely covering the syllabus studied at School. The interview is effectively a mini-tutorial and will reveal to the interviewer whether the candidate has the qualities to prosper under the inter-active, stimulating and challenging dialectical discipline of the tutorial/supervision system.


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Highams Park Academy Trust is a charitable company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales with registered number 07738801
[and VAT registered number 119-0793-09] and whose registered office is at Highams Park School Handsworth Avenue, Highams Park, London, E4 9PJ.
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