art project

Realising Aspirations 2017

Ashton Sixth Form College was proud to become an OxNet hub in 2012/13 and, inspired by the Pembroke North Humanities programme, launched Realising Aspirations soon after. In essence, the programme offers first-year Level 3 students the opportunity to ‘try out’ university study before they start making their applications. From our first cohort of just 70 students on 9 subject strands, Realising Aspirations has now developed into Ashton Sixth Form College’s most popular enrichment activity.

In March, our largest cohort ever, 340 students, marked the end of their time on this year’s programme at our Realising Aspirations Finale, a celebration of their commitment, hard work and enthusiasm.

15 exciting and wide-ranging subjects were offered in 2017, from ‘Computer Science’ to ‘Design, ‘Psychology’ to ‘Business Management & Accountancy’, ‘Life Sciences’ to ‘Allied Healthcare’, ‘Law’ to ‘Performing Arts’. Each subject comprised a 4-month long series of events, including a university visit; two information and guidance events; and a number of interactive lectures, seminars and workshops led by visiting academics and postgraduates.

This year’s ‘Physical Science’ strand, for instance, included a fascinating lecture on space weather by Jim Wild, Professor of Space Physics at Lancaster University, which challenged our aspiring scientists to consider how Physics intersects with History, Economics and Politics. Meanwhile, the ‘History of Art’ students tested their creative and critical abilities in a curation workshop with the Courtauld Institute of Art.

We were also thrilled, for the first time ever, to welcome students from Oldham Sixth Form College onto our ‘Engineering’ strand, which runs annually in collaboration with the University of Manchester’s School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering. The aspiring Engineers learnt through interactive workshops in which they flew drones and flight simulators, used Bioengineering technology to scan their hands and movements, and shear box tested different materials in the geo technic and soil lab. Offering these high-quality experiences out to other students in the region is very much in line with our aims and ethos as an OxNet hub, and we hope to continue this work in future years.

The programme is designed particularly for students from areas with low progression to higher education and seeks to provide experiences that demystify university life and study, enrich and broaden students’ understanding of compelling new subjects and approaches, and improve students’ higher-level study skills. 92% of this year’s participants would recommend that future students take part. One participant writes,

‘It has made me less worried about the transition from college to university. It has shown me a range of courses that are available to me which I didn’t even realise were course options.’

Another student described the programme as, an amazing experience, helping you get ready for university life!’

In 2017, Ashton Sixth Form College have proudly worked with over 20 universities and organisations, from local institutions such as the University of Manchester, MMU, the University of Law, and the Manchester International Festival, to farther-flung partners including LIPA, the University of Leicester, Durham University and Newcastle University.

We are extremely grateful to every individual, organisation and institution who has contributed talks, workshops and/or visit days to the programme over the last 4 years, without whom we couldn’t offer such positive and enriching experiences!