UCL News


Revolutionary summer school

26 September 2003

36 gifted year 12 students from all over the UK came together for the week-long residential summer school, 'Revolutions in History', run jointly by UCL and the British Library.

Summer school participant, Emma Lodato

Now in its second year, the initiative is proving to be a great success. Mr Simon McGuinness, UCL's Widening Participation Officer, said: "The summer school intends to broaden students' knowledge, demystify the university experience, teach new skills while enriching their own abilities, and to have a lot of fun through learning."

The course is designed around the theme of 'What is a Revolution?' and students attended lectures, seminars and discussion groups led by UCL academics, British Library curators and staff from the Wellcome Trust. Evening activities were also organised, including an outing to the West End show 'Les Miserables', set in the revolutionary Paris of 1832.

Lizzy Mansfield (History 2) was one of the five UCL history students who acted as mentors to the participants during the week. She said: "This year's group was pretty quiet for the first few days. I think they realised that it was on a whole different level, and not at all like school. However, when they spoke at their individual presentations, they really came out of their shells. They had a clear understanding of the material, and once they got beyond their fear of looking ignorant in front of the group, they grew in confidence and started asking for more information."

Juliet Holmes receives her summer school certificate

At the British Library handling sessions, the group got to hold a bullet from the English civil war, letters written by Charles I and Cromwell, and a bible read by Charles I before his beheading, complete with stains rumoured to be the King's blood. Sophie Taylor (History 2), another mentor, explained: "At these sessions, the students gained a sense of reality and the danger of the times. The curators and historians were brilliant and all the lectures were very good. All the students were talking about the lecture by Dr Axel Korner (History) on the 1848 revolutions, and they loved Les Miserables - they were all in tears by the end."

The summer school also immerses pupils in the university lifestyle. Student mentor Laura Callaghan (Ancient History & Egyptology 2) explained: "If the students had any perceptions of UCL as an ivory tower, they were definitely dispelled. University is all about motivational learning. If you show your enthusiasm, staff will help you all the way. At school, learning is almost robotic, and marked on memory alone. University is not about being the best in the class - most of the time, you don't know each other's grades. You're not competing against any else except yourself."

One of the pupils said: "At the summer school, I gained more confidence in public discussions and in my own views. I have a more profound understanding of what it is like to go to university, and I definitely want to go to UCL!"

Mr McGuinness is looking forward to getting more schoolchildren involved in UCL activities over the next year, with help from the UCL student mentors and ambassadors. He said: "Next year, UCL will launch a new Egyptology and Archaeology summer school in association with the British Museum in July 2004. The UCL student ambassadors will be visiting schools and working on departmental projects, as usual. Some will create their own projects, and we're looking to attract more student ambassadors at this year's Fresher's Fair."

To find out more about widening participation or becoming a student mentor use the links below.

UCL's Widening Participation Unit