UCL Computer Science


Mentoring scheme for students from disadvantaged backgrounds launched at UCL Computer Science

11 March 2022

The A-COMPS programme aims to help high school students with an interest in STEM subjects progress to university.

Rae Harbird talking with students

A new mentoring scheme to support A-level pupils from disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds enter university has launched at UCL Computer Science.

A-COMPS (Apply Competitively to STEM) is an 18-month programme for London-based students who are interested in computer science, technology and engineering subjects and would like help on their journey into higher education.

22 pupils from Newham Collegiate Sixth Form in East London and St Thomas the Apostle in South London were selected to participate based on their predicted grades and commitment to studying a STEM-based undergraduate degree.

The programme was officially launched at an online event in February, which saw mentees meet their prospective mentors for the first time. Students were also introduced to UCL Computer Science by Head of Department, Professor Steve Hailes, as well as receive an insightful session from UCL Admissions on how to start a university application.

What does the scheme involve?

Mentees will be taught by leading experts in the field of computer science, including academics, post-doctoral researchers and postgraduate teaching assistants from the department.

Students will have the opportunity to explore their skills, strengths and career options, as well as benefit from:

  • regular one-to-one academic and personal mentoring;
  • work experience in research labs;
  • inspirational lectures from leading academics;
  • expert-led workshops on UCAS applications, writing personal statements and student finance.

Why was A-COMPS set up?

The programme was established by Dr Peter Wijeratne (Senior Research Fellow), alongside Professor Steve Hailes, Rae Harbird (Teaching Fellow) and Dr Elpida Makrygianni (Engineering Education Developer and Coordinator).

Peter said: "We launched A-COMPS to try level the playing field for students from disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds, supporting them in their ambitions to study STEM-based subjects in higher education (HE).

It's the first HE-led mentoring programme of its type, which is exciting but also daunting! However we're building on a wealth of experience in outreach and education at UCL Engineering, so I'm confident we can manage the challenges associated with starting any new venture.

I believe that education is a key pathway to social equity and that it is the duty of HE institutions such as UCL to not only ensure fair access but also help instil the belief in disadvantaged and under-represented individuals that they deserve it.

I hope that at the very least A-COMPS will instil this belief in the next generation of STEM-based students and researchers - that education is a right, not a privilege, and that it's there for them."