Blog: September 2017

The Week In Education – 29.09.2017

Providing your essential education and university news. This week; Cambridge beat out Oxford, the future of UK tuition fees and which countries are preparing students for success.

Cambridge pips Oxford for #1 Spot in 2018 Good University Guide

With the release of The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, Cambridge has been named the #1 institute for higher education for the 5th year running – narrowly beating out historic rivals Oxford at #2.

Boasting a completion rate of 98.9%, Cambridge has the highest of any UK university according to the guide while 92.1% of graduates go on to achieve a first or 2:1 – a figure only Oxford has been able to trump. Of the 67 individual subjects assessed by the guide, Cambridge tops the most with an impressive 30.

Not to be left out, London also secures 2 in the top 10 with Imperial College and University College at #4 and #7 respectively. Northern universities also made a strong showing, with St Andrews, Durham, Lancaster and Leeds all making the list.

For a more detailed breakdown, visit thesundaytimes.co.uk/gooduniversityguide. Alternatively, head to oxfordsummercourses.com/cambridge/ and learn how you can experience Cambridge for yourself.


UK Chancellor outlines £5,000 Tuition Fee Cut

In the run up to November’s Budget announcement, Chancellor Phillip Hammond has proposed cutting the maximum tuition fee charged to £7,500; saving students a minimum of £5,000 over their degree. This is set to be accompanied by a government grant of £1,500 for STEM students; the first step in offsetting the higher costs incurred for these subjects and empowering universities to focus on those subjects that they excel in.

The treasury is also looking at further means to scale tuition fees, potentially forcing some universities below £7,500 based on graduate earning potential. However this has been met with criticism and natural concerns that this could neglect subject areas where skills essential to us as a society are not valued by the labour market, such as nursing.

Following Jeremy Corbyn’s mass mobilisation of the student vote in May’s general election, the cost of higher education is a key topic for the Conservative government as they look to curry favour with this jaded demographic – making encouraging news for prospective UK students.


Preparing Students for the Future; New Zealand #1 with UK at #6

The “Worldwide Educating for the Future Index” has been announced, a joint venture by The Economist and Yidan Prize Foundation charting those countries which best prepare students for the future. The 35 countries documented are ranked based on 16 indicators including teaching, socio-economic and education policies and focusing on the “inputs” determining environments in which students can flourish.

The five-highest ranked are; New Zealand, Canada, Finland, Switzerland and Singapore. The UK narrowly misses the top 5, earning sixth but with particular note for the “comprehensive national strategy helping students gain skills for the future”. New Zealand’s success is attributed to the acknowledgement that education and future skills is a strategic imperative in order for the small country to be globally competitive, combined with systematic government-led approaches to building fit-for-purpose education systems.

This index claims that more than half the 35 listed countries are failing to make adequate investment or properly assess the skills needed for the future. India and China, the two countries supplying the world’s largest worker pools, rank 29th and 31st respectively while Taiwan comes 19th amidst concerns over its decreasing student population.

Posted: September 29, 2017

2017 Excursions – The City of Bath

Students at Oxford Summer Courses will immerse themselves in British culture, our various excursions allowing them to delve deeper into UK history and the international influences which have shaped it. The city of Bath is a prime example of this; valiantly preserving its Roman roots while simultaneously welcoming international students to one of the UK’s top universities. Our own students had the pleasure of experiencing this during their stay with us.

Carried by coach through the rolling hills of the Cotswolds, our 18-24s were about to discover the delights of just one of Britain’s many historic cities. The Somerset city of Bath has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987; this status has ensured that those testaments to the city’s rich history, from its Roman baths to its Georgian townhouses, are beautifully preserved for future generations to enjoy. However our students would find that, despite the reverence for its heritage, this ancient city certainly isn’t living in the past.

Once in Bath, the day’s activities began with a tour of the historic Roman baths from which the town takes its name. Students marvelled at the brilliantly preserved ruins and the ingenious ways in which the Romans harnessed natural springs; founding upon them the luxurious baths which served as a place for socialising and worship as well as simple relaxation. A few students were brave enough to drink some of the authentic baths water served in the restaurant -and the majority agreed that that would be their last taste of it! Having navigated the baths courtesy of an enlightening audio guide (featuring the famed author Bill Bryson), the group enjoyed a leisurely lunch. While many took the opportunity to sample some of Bath’s many restaurants, others made the most of the glorious sunshine and enjoyed a picnic in the park.

In the afternoon, the group split up with half visiting Bath’s 7th century Abbey before going on to visit Pulteney Bridge and its weirs. The rest of the group took a longer walk through the city to marvel at the gorgeous Georgian architecture on show at The Circus and The Royal Crescent.

Alongside its original stained glass windows and frescos, the ancient Abbey displays far more recent works of religious art; these include a number of recent tapestries depicting biblical scenes along with a stunning display of hundreds of paper butterflies seemingly swarming through The Abbey (part of the city’s Forest of the Imagination Festival). Just a short walk from The Abbey lies Pulteney Bridge designed by Robert Adam and initially completed in 1774. The bridge straddles the River Avon and houses a number of shops, restaurants and cafés – making it the perfect place for students to enjoy a traditional afternoon tea before the journey back to Oxford.

The rest of the group walked to The Circus to enjoy magnificent views of Bath and the surrounding countryside as well as the beautiful Georgian townhouses surrounding it. Further fine examples of this stunning architecture, along with a thoroughly deserved rest, were enjoyed in the park near The Royal Crescent. After basking in the fading sun and snapping a final few fantastic photos, everyone reconvened in town for coffee and to hop back on the coach to Oxford; a relaxing end to a busy day.

Posted: September 27, 2017

3 Things To Expect From A Creative Writing Course

The collaborative nature of writing is a fundamental part of penning a masterpiece; polishing your prose through constructive criticism. However, students can initially be very reticent to offer a critique of their peer’s work or to share their own, ultimately holding them back as a writer. Leigh Joslin, Oxford Summer Courses Analyst and Scriptwriter, shares his experiences of learning his craft…

For me, the best and purest thing to expect from a creative writing class, is to expect anything. You may enter with an agenda, but when your creative juices get going, you’ll leave with more than you expected and, hopefully, filled with a steely determination to attack the blank white page as soon as possible.

That’s what it was like for me when I was attending scriptwriting classes at university. I honestly was unsure of what we would be specifically doing. I was expecting the unexpected. I just knew that I wanted to write something and wanted to know more about how to do it.

It was with this approach that I learnt it is best for everybody, especially the individual, that everyone within the class should express their ideas to the group; to share opinions and to do so comfortably.

And yet everyone did it so very uncomfortably. Myself included. It was a learning curve, but I wasn’t the first writer to have insecurities about his written work and I won’t be the last. As a common hurdle for any writing class to overcome, Oxford University and indeed most creative writing tutors encourage a collaborative and welcoming atmosphere; providing you the forum to open up and share your thoughts.

There is reason for this. Dare I say, it is where the magic happens. You really learn the most about yourself as a writer, about the written work of your peers and about the craft itself by taking your stories/scripts/ideas/pitches/notes (whatever it may be) and by vocalising them to your group. Feedback is key at all stages of writing. With this in mind, here are three things to expect (and embrace) from a writing class:

1. STAND UP AND PRESENT

Your tutor and your classmates will want to know who you are, where you’re from and what you’re writing about. Be ready to speak to the group so that you do yourself and your writing justice when the moment inevitably comes. Creative Writing students aged 16-24 studying with Oxford Summer Courses are ordinarily taught through seminars and tutorials, providing students with valuable opportunities to present and discuss their own writing in both groups and individually.

2. WORKING AS A GROUP

Expect to be randomly paired and be given a sliver of time to come up with an original piece of writing, for later presentation to the group. This was common in my own experience, with specific sources of information such as newspaper clippings/headlines or a photograph often providing the seed for our story. Creative Writing courses with Oxford Summer Courses can involve tasks to write short stories and/or a poem which can be difficult to do within a set time, but hugely satisfying upon completion. Also, so much constructive feedback and good advice shall be obtained by sharing this with your fellow students and tutor.

3. BE PREPARED TO PERFORM

Performing is different to presenting. You may be required to get into character and speak the lines of which you type! This is a healthy and useful exercise because it will highlight areas that work well and will also highlight areas that need more attention. Embrace this nerve-wracking element of creative writing classes and workshop your ideas. Accept that what you write first-time around will not be on a par with Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Most importantly, be willing to re-write whilst also understanding the difference between plain feedback and helpful feedback.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Oxford is one of the world’s literary capitals, home to many of the great English writers – where better to discover your own voice as a writer, and scholar.

On a final note – within the scriptwriting community I know, we don’t like the term, “aspiring writer” because if you are writing stuff, thinking about writing and/or are plotting, note-taking and analysing, then guess what? You ARE a writer. It is a constant journey when you have decided to write. So always showcase your writing talent.

Read more about Creative Writing Courses with Oxford Summer Courses or feel free to contact the office directly to discuss 2018 classes: +44 (0) 1865 264 194

You can also follow Leigh and his writing exploits on Twitter.

Posted: September 19, 2017

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