Aberystwyth’s Summer University celebrates its 15th year

Some of the successful students who studied at this year’s Summer University

Some of the successful students who studied at this year’s Summer University

26 August 2015

The fifteenth year of Summer University at Aberystwyth has been another fun, thought provoking and hardworking summer for the staff and students alike.

Most young people would generally take the summer holiday off from their studies, but 80 students have decided to opt for six weeks of lectures, research and presentations.

This year’s Summer University culminated in a glittering ‘graduation’ ceremony, held on the 21st of August, which celebrated the hard work of these students who have come together from all over Wales to study subjects of their choice and experience university life.

The Aberystwyth Summer University is a flagship widening access programme aimed at those who can demonstrate the commitment and motivation to successfully complete the programme.

Students live or go to school / college in a Welsh Communities First area, or are from a care / care leaver background, or are the first from their family or community to go to university. They may have learning differences or have had a traumatic event which has affected their education.

Jamie Dearden, 27, one of this year’s ‘graduates’, had a particularly busy six weeks as his partner gave birth to their baby boy 5 weeks premature during the scheme.

Jamie said: “Everyone was really helpful and I only missed 1 day of classes. I was sad as the end of the course got closer, but also relieved because it was such a busy time. I’ve been given a place here at Aberystwyth in September to study Creative Writing with Drama and Theatre, which I’m really looking forward to.”

Dr Debra Croft, Manager of the Aberystwyth Summer University, says its strength lies in allowing a large group of students from all over Wales, to come together for an extended period to study subjects of their own choosing, taught by academics in the Departments, mirroring university life as realistically as possible. 

“The students have a full 6 weeks in which to immerse themselves in the experience of university, adjusting to being away from home, to the combined pressures of academic work and deadlines, sports and activities. They quickly learn organisational and time management skills, which enable them to enjoy a full programme of activities on the Campus and in the local area.”

Sam Hughes said that the best part of his six weeks was all the new people he met. He studied maths and forensic science, and said that his tutors were incredibly helpful. He added that “Summer University definitely confirmed for me that I do want to go on to University.”

Anjuma Begum described the experience as “the best time in my life” and said that she had gained a lot of confidence as a result of the six week course. “Before, I wasn’t sure whether to go to University, but now I definitely will.”

The Summer University also offers valuable work experience for current Aberystwyth University students to work as student leaders.

One of this year’s Student Leaders was second year International Politics and Military History student, George Smith, from Deeside.

George was responsible for a group of 15 students on this year’s course, having attended the course himself in 2012.

He said: “I relish the challenge of every day being a different day to the next, along with working in an environment where I can use the skills I started to learn as a Summer Uni student three years ago.”

George is now going into his final year where his dissertation will be based on Cold War fighter planes and the decline of British air power.

Nuffield Foundation Research Placements

This year’s Summer University graduation ceremony also acknowledged the work of three Nuffield Foundation Research Placement students, Jordan Manley, Mollie Davies and Joshua Churchill.

Mollie has spent her summer researching attitudes to higher education, using statistical data and structured interviews, whilst Jordan and Joshua have worked with Sports & Exercise Science researchers and a local podiatrist developing a standardised approach of plotting an individual's range of motion in the hope of identifying areas of weakness or limitations.

Andrea Meyrick, who coordinates the Nuffield placements in Wales on behalf of Techniquest, said that: “76 students across Wales have been on 4-6 week placements with a variety of organisations and universities. All the students taking part in the Nuffield research placements are very capable and able young people, and the placements are very much aimed at ensuring that ability is channelled into the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics..

Because in Aberystwyth the Nuffield placements are part of the broader Summer University, the students get the X factor experience and are able to get a real feel for University as well as a feel for research, which no other students on the Nuffield placements across Wales got to experience.”

Kevin Manley, whose son Jordan was one of the Nuffield students, said that his son really enjoyed the placement and is definitely now planning to go on to University to study biology. He added: “we’re very proud of him, especially as he got excellent AS results recently, 3 Bs in maths, physics and chemistry.”

Dr Debra Croft  added: “Students in the first year of a post-16 science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) course are eligible to apply for the Nuffield placement - and those who don't have a family history of going to university or who attend schools in less well-off areas are particularly encouraged at Aberystwyth.”