Cambridge University launches new hub at the City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College

150 of North Staffordshire’s brightest teenagers are to be prepared for top degree places through Cambridge University’s HE+ scheme.

They will spend the next year working on a range of activities, including research projects, university visits and master classes with academics who are experts in their chosen subjects.

Representatives from Cambridge University, including Vice Chancellor Professor Stephen Toope visited Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College to launch a new regional hub for HE+ scheme for the North Staffordshire region. The hub is open to 16 and 17-year-olds from seven local schools and colleges.

Professor Toope,  said the aim was to transform Stoke-on-Trent’s historically low take-up of higher education and encourage top-grade students to apply to leading universities. He added: “In the last five years, we’ve had 63 students apply to us from Stoke-on-Trent. Eight of them were admitted. We’ve just written to a few more today to offer them places. But it’s clearly not enough. There are just not enough of them applying.”

Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College is hosting the hub, with many of the sessions run by staff from Cambridge University’s Sidney Sussex College. The Potteries is one of 18 locations picked to join the programme.

Jordan Heath took his A Levels at Stoke Sixth Form and is now in his second year of an economics degree at Cambridge. The 19-year-old, from Meir Park, hopes HE+ will encourage more people from the Potteries to follow his lead.

He said: “If you don’t know someone who’s going there, you think you’ve got no chance. When I did a lot better than expected in my first year at college, I thought I might have a chance of getting in. I also went on a residential visit to Cambridge, which helped.”

Biddulph High student Ellie Bales signed up to HE+ after being nominated by one of her teachers. The 17-year-old, who lives in Biddulph, said: “I want to learn more about maths through it. At the moment, I don’t know very much about university life, so I’m looking forward to finding out more.”

The other sixth forms involved include Newcastle College, St Joseph’s College in Trent Vale, Blurton’s Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy, Haywood Sixth Form Academy in Burslem, and St Margaret Ward Catholic Academy in Tunstall.