PhD study project gives sixth form college science students a head start with university applications

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Sixth form college science students have spent four months studying dementia in partnership with a university PhD researcher as part of an education charity programme.

Eight A-level students from Richard Taunton Sixth Form College in Southampton took part in the Brilliant Club Scholars Programme with the University of Surrey.

The project is aimed at giving students the chance to learn beyond their core curriculum and help them to develop key skills for university and later in life, such as critical thinking.

The students worked with the researcher over seven online sessions between January and April to learn about dementia before completing their own independent studies into the subject and writing a 2,500 word essay on the topic of Can We Predict Dementia? Their work was then subjected to university-standard grading to give them an understanding of the study required at that level.

The charity supports students in developing the knowledge, skills and confidence needed to progress to the country’s most competitive universities and succeed once there. It says Scholars Programme graduates are almost twice as likely to progress to a competitive university compared with a group of students from similar backgrounds.

To mark the end of the project the students visited the University of Southampton for a Q&A session with university student ambassadors, a tour led by one of the ambassadors and their graduation ceremony.

Student Leah Spencer, who was asked to give an impromptu speech at the graduation, said: “Attending tutorials has helped me with my essay writing skills, note taking, and especially how to use and list references. Overall, the course has taught me how to perform at an undergraduate level and what is expected.

“The graduation day gave me a chance to reflect on my achievement. Giving a speech on that day also gave me a boost of confidence and made me feel proud. This has prepared me in taking my next steps towards university.”

Fellow student Jibra’il Ali added: “The programme has given me the opportunity to study dementia and learn at great depth in order to make a judgement on if it is possible to predict dementia. It has also given me valuable skills such as how to do citations, which will be useful when I go to university. 

Richard Taunton head of science and care Rachel Powell said the programme gave the students added insight into a subject they are already studying at A-level. “It is a fantastic opportunity for our science students to gain deeper understanding in a field that is relevant to their future career aspirations,” she said.

In addition they learn writing, referencing and critical thinking skills that will give them a head start when they go to university.