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By Jonathan Tomlin
An inner city London college has attempted to recreate an Oxford ‘don’s room’ to prepare its students for Oxbridge interviews.
Brooke House Sixth Form College (BSix) in Hackney spent £10,000 on the project to stop its students being intimidated if they are interviewed at Oxford.
The room contains bookcases with leather-bound books, chandeliers, and views of replica classical statues, including Julius Caesar and a Parthenon frieze.
Pembroke College collaborated with the school in the project to try to improve access to competitive universities.
The number of Brooke House students winning places at Russell Group universities has increased by over 300% since 2008.
BSix’s headmaster Ken Warman said: “It’s really meant to be used for getting our students accustomed to being in a different environment and different situation to what most of them are used to.
“The pupils here really like it and are wowed every time they step inside because it‘s something different to what they usually see, especially with all the books around the room and the cosy atmosphere.”
He added: “Many of our tutorials and seminars now take place in there and it’s a great place for students to get on with coursework and essay writing as it is very relaxing.
“If you go to Oxford it is a daunting experience. But if our students have already done it, they will be much more able to cope without being thrown by the unfamiliar surroundings.”
Mark Fricker, Academic Director at Pembroke, said: “We think [the project] has a great deal of promise – the statistics clearly show it works for students that participate, and proves that students from one of the toughest boroughs in the UK can hold their own at the best universities. Equally, we hope it will have a much wider impact to help change perceptions of what is possible. It is meant to be academically challenging and hopefully adds a bit of excitement back into education.
“It is also worth saying that the Pembroke undergrads and grads put a lot in and get some teaching experience into the bargain. Expanding the scheme is a challenge, and will always have to be in addition to more general and widespread access work across the whole university, but it is a great addition to our portfolio of activities.”
Emily Hinks, a student ambassador at LMH, said: “I think it’s great that a state school is making that extra effort to encourage their students to apply to Oxford. Hopefully this will help eradicate the idea that Oxford is scary or elitist. Coming from a state school myself, I can see how easy it is to feel like you won’t be offered a place or won’t fit in, but that’s not the case.
“I’m not 100% convinced that building a replica professor’s room is exactly the way to go about making the process less intimidating… However even the knowledge that their school is giving them that bit of extra help could give a potential applicant the confidence and encouragement to apply, so it’s great that Brooke House is taking a creative step in this direction.”
In January, one student from Hampshire withdrew her application to Oxford, criticising the University for holding interviews in “grand formal settings” which she claimed intimidated state school applicants.