Higher Education Forum

An Aspirational Evening indeed! Downe House students and guests from five local schools were treated to an exceptional group of expert speakers on applying to university in the UK and overseas.

15 May 2021

The biennial Higher Education Forum event, ‘An Aspirational Evening’ was a virtual opportunity for LV, UV and LVI students, from both Downe House and five local schools – Kennet School, St Bartholomew’s, The Downs School, Park House School and Trinity School – to find out more about their options in the world of higher education. Inspirational keynote addresses were delivered by the Baroness Morgan of Cotes, a member of the House of Lords and former Secretary State for Education, and Professor Shearer West CBE, the Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Nottingham. Students then had the opportunity to attend any two of the six break-out sessions on Medicine Applications, Creative Applications, Oxbridge Applications, Russell Group University Applications, Overseas Universities Applications and Apprenticeships.

Baroness Morgan shed light upon the significant positive impact universities have on our personal academic development, and also their importance in the local and global community. She shared some invaluable life advice, encouraging all of us to simply do what we enjoy. She also highlighted how we, as the ‘Post-Covid generation’, are better equipped for life ahead as we have learnt early on to be resilient and adaptable. We thank Baroness Morgan for the renewed enthusiasm and encouragement for our future which really set the tone for the evening.

Lucy, VI

Professor Shearer began by describing her own journey from a small town in the US to Vice-Chancellor and President of Nottingham University and spoke of the power education has to challenge, inspire and transform alongside the importance of passion for one’s subject, in her case the History of Art. Reflecting on the challenges currently facing the world, Professor Shearer West expressed a refreshingly hopeful, yet pragmatic belief that every generation has faced problems, but that our generation’s entrepreneurial skills, concern for social justice and technological adaptability makes her feel optimistic about the future. Encapsulating a spirit of resilience, her phrase, ‘normal never changed the world’ is one I am sure we will all carry with us for quite some time.

Louisa, LVI


The Russell Group Applications talk was delivered by Frankie Wilkinson from Durham University, who talked about the wide range of opportunities that Russell Group universities had to offer, including their world class research, flexible courses and expert-led teaching. She mainly focused on how to write a Personal Statement, stressing the importance of tailoring it to the course you are applying for and gave us a general overview of the university application process and what the admissions teams are looking for.

Lara, LVI

The Oxbridge talk was delivered by Allison Bissell, Head of Oxbridge Applications, a company that provides expert advice on applying to Oxbridge. Allison had previously attended Pembroke College at Oxford and has a BA in Mathematics and Philosophy, and thus was able to give us a personal insight into her experiences as well as the differences between the selection processes of Oxford and Cambridge, how to choose a college, Personal Statements and interviews.

Tilly, LVI

For the Medicine Applications talk, we welcomed Dr Helen Coutts, a Consultant Paediatrician, who advised us on the medicine application process and life as a doctor in the NHS. It was fascinating to gain an insight into the daily work life of a Paediatrician. Dr Coutts advised as on how to differentiate between medical courses and universities, comparing both traditional and more non-traditional courses and what they have to offer as well as advice on entrance tests, interviews and Personal Statements.

Poppy, LVI

David Hawkins from The University Guys focused on applications to American universities. We learnt that the education system in the United States is extremely broad and versatile, allowing students to have more time to decide what they want to focus on in college, which is very different to UK universities. Due to the recent announcement that many American universities are going test-optional, he further elaborated on advantages and disadvantages of sitting the SAT and other requirements needed.

Pippa and Emma, LVI

The Creative Application talk was delivered by Olivia O’Hare who is responsible for student recruitment for the University of Arts London (UAL). She outlined the six different colleges and theareas of creative arts they specialise in and explained Foundation Courses. Lastly, she gave us an insight into what college life is like and spoke about the different areas of London where the colleges are located.

Isabella, LVI

Britney Cleary talked about the different types of Apprenticeships and the range of companies who offer apprenticeships from ITV to the RSPCA. We were also introduced to the website ‘Amazing Apprenticeships’ and learned about the benefits of Degree Apprenticeships which are becoming increasingly popular, although very competitive as many students are attracted to the idea of earning a salary, gaining valuable work experience and achieving a degree qualification at the same time.

Marina, LVI

Higher Education

Find out more about how Downe House supports girls to apply for their chosen universities.


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Book your tickets | Academic Conference – Maximising Pupils’ Potential | Thursday 13 June 2024
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