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  • Radley College, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX14 2HR
  • Telephone: 01235 543000, Fax: 01235 543106

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Radleians at University

Almost all Radleians move on to further study at university when they leave the College.

Their motivation to do this includes, in varying measures, the desire to pursue a school subject further, an enthusiasm for a new area of study, a career requirement to hold degree level qualification in a given subject and, of course, the appreciation that three years or more of higher education study will equip them well for their future career.

Radley has developed a tradition of strong provision of HE advice, with many experienced dons working alongside some external experts to ensure that each individual can receive support and guidance according to his needs. Details of the key personnel involved in this can be found on the school intranet. Talking to as many people as possible is recommended: academics and undergraduates when attending Open Days; teaching dons; Form Masters; Heads of Departments; Tutors; the Director of University Entrance. 

Some sixth-formers already have well-formed plans when they start their A Level studies, but most need guidance as they enter 6.1. Aside from the advice that is given by e.g. Form Masters, there is a wealth of information available from publications and a multitude of websites. To help guide boys and parents through this, a visit to the Universities Office (adjacent to the Coffee Shop) is always recommended. What can be read can only offer information and encourage further research; at the core of our philosophy is the belief that each boy must ultimately decide for himself which courses and institutions are most suitable for him. To ensure that a sensible application strategy is arrived at, there are many factors to consider, starting with the course itself, leading to the type of university and then the specific universities where the chosen course is offered. For many of the very strongest candidates Oxford or Cambridge will be an option. Niall Murphy (NM) heads up our Oxbridge preparation programme. Whatever the course that is being aspired to, the individual will want to at least consider the possibility of deferred entry, with all the benefits that a properly organised gap year can offer. Our allied Careers Department can advise on such matters, as they do on, for instance, work experience.

We work hard to ensure that Radleians are aware of the opportunities that exist outside of the well-worn UCAS path, not least at American and European universities. We retain the services of an external US universities adviser (Dr Jon Tabbert) and Mlle Emilie Danis from our Modern Languages Department has a brief to support those interested in studying in continental Europe.

Starting the process of deliberation early is very important, with the aim being to submit applications to universities, whether at home or abroad, well in advance of published deadlines. Our Higher Education Timetable is set out on the school intranet.

If applying to UK universities through UCAS, the application process is relatively straightforward. That said, completing the UCAS form is likely to be the most significant act of form-filling that an applicant will have had to deal with. It goes without saying that appropriate encouragement, advice and checking procedures are in place to ensure that the process runs smoothly. The Personal Statement is a very important part of the application, with each applicant guided towards achieving a finished product that is a clear statement of what led him to choose the selected course. The Reference that is attached once the applicant has completed his side of things is the professional assessment of what his dons believe his potential for further study to be, based always on the evidence that the applicant has produced within the classroom, in the exam hall and in relevant activities outside of school. It also includes a statement of the College’s policies in terms of our core curriculum and timing of exam sittings.

Applying to university has become more and more competitive, meaning that even the best candidates may receive disappointments and rejections. This is not just the case for Oxford and Cambridge applications, but applies equally to a range of competitive courses at UK universities and abroad. For some of these highly sought after courses interviews are used as part of the selection process. General advice about interview preparation is given by the Careers Department, who also offer a programme of interview practice; specific interview practice for e.g. Oxbridge and Medicine applicants is co-ordinated by the University Entrance team. As in all aspects of university application, it is very important that the preparation and groundwork for interviews is done thoroughly.

Please note that the world of university application can be fast-changing. The next few years are, again, going to see developments in what universities offer – and what is required to be successful in applications to competitive courses. The recent referendum decision will lead to a period of uncertainty in some quarters. The imminent changes in A Level provision also suggest an interesting phase. We will continue to monitor current trends – and to stay abreast of changes within the HE sector, so that Radleians are made aware of relevant opportunities and fully supported in their applications. We look with satisfaction at the list of destinations of our recent leavers, knowing that Radleians have moved on to a wide range of good universities and stimulating courses, but we do not look to simply replicate the success of the past. We want Radleians to be interested in information in e.g. league tables, but not beholden to such measures; we want Radleians to reflect carefully about what will suit them, to apply with ambition and enthusiasm, to understand how to get best value from their tuition fees and to join the ranks of those who have been excited by their university experience and found the right pathway for their subsequent career.

If at any time there are questions and issues you wish to discuss, please contact me via pwg@radley.org.uk.

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