This August, a four-day summer school will be held at Jesus College for the brightest students from across Wales.
Twenty-two students, all of whom are part of the Seren Network, will get the opportunity to attend, the aim being to give them a taste of student life and develop their critical thinking skills. Two students will be invited from each of the 11 regional Seren hubs.
The news comes just a fortnight after Oxford University announced plans to launch a summer school for white, British males, and two months after the University saw a drop in the already low number of state school studentsit gives places to. Reacting to the announcement of this new outreach project, Jesus College’s current JCR President, Rosie Morgan, commented: “The JCR is thrilled by any opportunity to increase access, both at a college and university level, and as such is really pleased that Jesus are offering this new initiative to further engage with Welsh students.”
Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt, Principal of Jesus College, concurred: “Jesus College is incredibly proud of its enduring connection that goes back to the College’s foundation in 1571. This new initiative will help ensure that we continue to welcome future generations of talented Welsh students here in Oxford.”
The Seren Network was established in 2014 on the recommendation of a report produced by Paul Murphy, the then newly appointed Oxbridge Ambassador for Wales. He had been tasked with addressing the decline in the number of Welsh students both applying and being successfully admitted to Oxford and Cambridge. He found that between 2008–12, Welsh domiciled applicants to Cambridge had a 22.6% success rate, compared with 27% for students from the UK overall, and that, for the same period, those applying to Oxford had a 17.3% success rate, compared with 23.6% for the UK. Now reaching more than 2,000 students, the network aims to support both the brightest students and their teachers in reaching their full potential.
JCR President, Rosie Morgan, commented: “The JCR is thrilled by any opportunity to increase access, both at a college and university level”
“Beyond the curriculum” is the strapline of the network’s annual conference this year, which happens on 15th and 16th March. It will be attended by hundreds of Welsh students, as well as representatives from many of the top British universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and Imperial College London.
According to the Welsh Government’s website, the Seren Network “inspires students about future career aspirations”, “stretches and challenges students in the subjects they enjoy” and “links students with leading UK universities”. The summer course is a clear sign that this final objective is being realised.
In fact, Jesus College’s links with Wales can be traced all the way back to its founding in 1571, which was done at the request of Dr Hugh Price, a Welsh lawyer and clergyman. He is seen as the College’s founder and first benefactor, and since then many donors have stipulated that their bequests be received by Welsh students.
The almost unbroken succession of principals either from Wales or of Welsh descent between 1571 and 1915, as well as the fact that, until the late 19th century, many fellows at the College were Welsh, has resulted in Jesus College sometimes being called “the Welsh College”.
In a statement to OxStu, the Principal of Jesus College Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt said: “Jesus College is incredibly proud of its enduring connection to Wales – a connection that goes back to the college’s foundation in 1571”.
“This new initiative will help ensure that we continue to welcome future generations of talented Welsh students here in Oxford”.
The University Professorship of Celtic, which is the oldest chair in the Modern Languages Faculty and the only professorship in Celtic at an English university, is also known as the Jesus Professorship. It has been based in the College since its inception in 1877, and the holder is also a Professorial Fellow of the College.
Today, about 15% of Jesus College’s undergraduates are Welsh, representing a much higher percentage than is found across the University as a whole, and it continues to have academic links with several Welsh universities.