The Access to Bristol course, run by the University of Bristol, is designed to encourage and inspire pupils who might not otherwise consider going onto higher education.

A total of 925 local students, all studying for their A-levels or an equivalent qualification, have completed the programme this year and many of them celebrated with friends and family at a special ceremony in the Wills Memorial Building last night [24 April].

The high-achieving students are from over 80 different state schools and colleges within an hour’s journey from the University. Many may not have previously considered going to university or are from families who don't have a history of attending university.

The scheme, which had over 1,500 applicants, is hugely popular as it offers participants a guaranteed place or interview at the University of Bristol, should they later decide to apply for a place and meet the entry requirements. Many graduating students are also eligible for a bursary.

Many of the graduating students will go on to study at the University of Bristol in the coming years. In 2018, the University welcomed 136 students who completed the scheme - a record number.

Lucy Collins, Director of Home Recruitment and Conversion, said: "The event is a really special moment for all those who have taken part in the Access to Bristol programme, their families and friends. The young people should be very proud of what they have achieved.

"The scheme is about giving students an exciting and challenging experience and, for many students, it helps them to make that final decision about the subject they wish to study and see that university is a viable option.

"We hope this will be the start of their relationship with the University and that we’ll see many of them back in the Great Hall, graduating from their chosen degree programme in years to come."

In the style of a traditional graduation ceremony, family and friends gathered in the Great Hall of the Wills Memorial Building as students were presented with their certificates.

There were speeches by Professor Sally Heslop, Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Bristol, as well as official photographs.

Access to Bristol requires students to attend a series of sessions, held at the University on Wednesday afternoons, studying one of 29 subject streams.

Each session is designed to give students an idea of what it is like to study at the University, working with academics and current students who can offer advice and guidance about higher education and their chosen area of study.

Advice is also on hand to help students write a good university application and prepare them for the challenges of university life, such as managing their finances.

Also attending the ceremony were 32 students who completed the Pathways to Law programme, which is similar to Access to Bristol but concentrates on Law and takes place over a two year period, including the academic taster sessions but also work experience, court visits and an e-mentor.

Pathways to Law was set up by The Sutton Trust with support from major law firms.

Running alongside the Access to Bristol programme, last year 90 students enrolled on Pathways to Health Sciences. This two-year initiative offers tailored support to those students wishing to study Medicine, Dentistry or Veterinary Sciences. One third of this cohort have received an offer to study one of these three courses at the University of Bristol in 2019.

The University of Bristol has run Access to Bristol since 2006. In that time, around 3,500 students have completed the course and over 500 have gone onto study at the University.

Applications for the 2019/20 scheme will open in September 2019. 

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