What is Seren? A guide for newcomers

You might have heard about Seren but with the initial excitement of the academic year starting to calm down, you might now find yourself wondering what it involves.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Seren, read on for some key information to get you up to speed.

Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams at the 2018 Seren Conference

In 2014 Paul Murphy, Lord Murphy of Torfaen, noticed a drop in Welsh students being accepted into Oxford and Cambridge (Oxbridge). He found Welsh students had a 19.5% chance of getting into Oxbridge in comparison to 25% from the rest of the UK.

As a result, Seren was established. Designed to increase the numbers of Welsh teenagers getting into Oxbridge, Seren supports Wales’ brightest and best state school students in realising their potential.

Seren is a national network of hubs across Wales which provides opportunities, support and guidance to encourage students to strive to be the best they can be and apply for universities that may have previously appeared unattainable.

At the beginning of each academic year Seren invites the next cohort of students from years 12 and 13 to join one of its hubs with the hope of inspiring them to achieve their full potential.

There are 13 regional hubs across Wales: Flintshire & Wrexham, Swansea, Rhondda Cynon Taf & Merthyr Tydfil, Carmarthenshire & Pembrokeshire, Education Achievement Service Consortia, Cardiff, Neath Port Talbot, Conwy & Denbighshire, Anglesey & Gwynedd, Ceredigion, Vale of Glamorgan, Powys and Bridgend.

hubs map english

These hubs are led by a dedicated Seren coordinator who creates a calendar of activities, such as the annual Seren Conference, university residentials like Jesus College Summer School, workshops with leading university professors, subject specific events and advice and guidance workshops.

Seren has also formed partnerships with leading departments at the Welsh Universities, all making strides in their areas of academic specialism and supporting Seren students through workshops, masterclasses and events. These academic specialisms range from engineering at Swansea to international politics at Aberystwyth and dentistry at Cardiff University.

In June of this year statistics showed that the Seren programme is seeing great success, with more Welsh students being offered places at Oxford and Cambridge year on year.

Cambridge University made the highest number of offers this year to state-educated Welsh students, and applications from Welsh state-educated students to Oxford University have increased by 13% since 2016.

Take a look at what past and present Seren students had to say:

“I found out about the Jesus College Summer School at Oxford University on the Seren Facebook page and jumped at the chance to apply. I was amazed when I got offered a place and enjoyed every second of my week there. It gave me an insight into life at the university while also giving me a flavour of what the course would be like” – Darcy Holland studying History at Oxford University.

“Being part of Seren is an amazing experience – it provided me with opportunities I never would have dreamed of.” – Morgan Edwards studying A-Levels at Llantwit Major Secondary School.

“My hub coordinator provided me with a lot of guidance and support throughout the process of applying to uni – it made it so much easier!” – Charlotte Belton studying Maths at Durham University.

“Seren has helped me prepare for university through the tips and advice from various talks I have been to which were put on by Seren.” – Joe Lagorio Price studying Medicine at Cambridge University.

03.07.19 mh SEREN event Cardiff5

And make sure to follow our social channels to keep updated on all things Seren:

Facebook – facebook.com/serennetwork

Twitter – @RhwydwaithSeren / @Seren_Network

Instagram – @RhwydwaithSeren / @serennetwork

Blog – rhwydwaithseren.blog.llyw.cymru/ serennetwork.blog.gov.wales

Top tips on surviving your first term at university from someone who has been there

Your first term at university can be nerve-wracking and with the excitement of fresher’s week over, the reality of studying at degree level can begin to set in.

We spoke to 20-year-old Maram Eghlileb, a second-year student studying Pharmacy (MPharm) at Cardiff University, who shared her experience of her first term at university with us.

Maram Eghlileb - top tips first term blog

Starting university can be a daunting thought for many people, including myself, but nonetheless so many people have experienced it and were able to ‘survive’ their first term!

Although I’m from Cardiff, just like many people that have moved here for university, I had to familiarise myself with the buildings and the city campus. I think this is one of the first things you should do when starting university as this helped ease the stress of getting lost or being late to my lectures, seminars or placements.

The thought of meeting new people and making friends can be intimidating, however, remembering that everyone is in the same boat and is feeling the exact same makes the process slightly easier. Simply smiling and saying hello can start a great conversation and possibly result in long-term friendships.

One of the greatest aspects of going to university is the fact that you will meet people from varying backgrounds, personalities and nationalities; which you will learn so much from. I can assure you that you will find a group of friends that will be your perfect match.

In addition to making friends in my year group, I found it really beneficial to socialise with people from outside my course. By joining societies and becoming an academic rep I met 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students that were incredibly welcoming and reassuring and offered great advice.

Before starting university, people will most likely advise you to throw yourself at as many things as possible, which I agree with to an extent. It’s great to sign up to societies that interest you and get involved in the university community but be reasonable with the number of societies you join. You don’t want to be feeling even more overwhelmed.

Keeping up with the workload is essential. As tempting as it may be to leave academic study until ‘later’, you risk putting yourself in a difficult situation. Keep up with your notes and write them up while you still remember the lectures rather than leaving them towards the end of the term. The first term will be a great time to figure out what style of revision at university best suits you.

With all this in mind, it’s important to enjoy yourself and to make the most of the opportunities university brings!

Top six reasons for teaching professionals to attend the Seren Conference

Hundreds of Year 12 students from across Wales will be travelling to Cefn Lea next month to take part in an exciting day of educational workshops and interactive sessions, intended to help them on their next steps towards university.

Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams at the 2018 Seren Conference

But the Seren Conference, now in its fourth year, is not only an unmissable day for students: there is plenty on offer for teachers too. We are running a separate timetable with a choice of nine sessions, just for teaching professionals, all designed to provide relevant and useful information on how best to support more able and talented students.

Last year, 98% of teaching professionals rated the conference as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ and 88% reported they had benefitted professionally in terms of being able to support their most able students.  98% also said they were able to speak to representatives from leading universities, meaning they had up-to-the minute advice on how best to support their students in their application to university.

Here are six reasons why this year’s conference is a must-attend event the teaching calendar:

  • Peer to peer learning: selected sessions will be hosted by teaching professionals who will share learnings and best practice on topics including how to support students’ mental health and wellbeing in school and college and how to meet the needs of students living and learning in rural communities.
  • Meet representatives from universities: teachers will have the chance to speak to staff from the leading universities in Wales and the rest of the UK and ask them questions about the application and interview process.
  • Be in the know about financial support offered to Welsh students: for the first time at the Seren conference there will be dedicated sessions around student finance as well as one on bursaries and scholarships offered by leading universities in Wales, UK and overseas.
  • Find out how the new GCSEs prepare MAT learners for post-16 study: Qualifications Wales will run a dedicated, in-depth session on the new GCSEs, designed to help professionals working in the post-16 sector to identify areas that learners may need additional support in and what skills they can expect MAT learners to have developed through the new GCSE curriculum.
  • Pick up free CPD points: the conference is free to attend and attending sessions counts towards your CPD, helping you to boost your career.
  • A unique opportunity: the conference covers lots of ground in just one day. It’s a chance to take part in a busy, productive and inspiring day so prepare to leave armed with a range of strategies to take back to school or college.

Dr John Roe, director of Sixth Form at Radyr Comprehensive School in Cardiff has been to the conference for the past two years. He said: “There is such a fantastic range of opportunities available for both students and teachers.

“Teachers can choose from a menu of fantastic professional development opportunities including the sessions and workshops plus the chance to network with colleagues from across the educational sector in Wales and the UK.

“The mental health and wellbeing session is particularly relevant to me. Over the last few years, sixth form teams have been seeing an increasing number of students suffering from mental health issues. There’s no doubt that wellbeing needs to be at the heart of any sixth form provision.

“With so much curriculum change happening at Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4, I think it is really useful for sixth form teams to be able to understand the implications for post-16 learners and how best to support them, so the Qualifications Wales session is also one I am interested in. This is an exciting opportunity to learn directly from Qualifications Wales.

“I would say to teachers who are going this year, look at the programme well in advance and discuss with colleagues who are also attending the conference from their school which sessions they are interested in going to. With so many great sessions, it’s important that you plan in advance to make sure that someone from the school is able to attend all the sessions you feel are most relevant to your school or college.”

Amy Jones, progress leader from Ysgol Calon Cymru, will be attending the Seren Conference for the first time this year. She said: “I am most looking forward to the session on ‘Supporting Seren learners in rural environments’ as our school is situated in Mid Wales where we are challenged by low population and long travel distances.

“Maintaining Welsh medium provision in our area is difficult and recruitment of specialist staff is also problematic. Minimising the impact on student learning and achievement is crucial. I am hoping to take away some strategies to make sure that our students are not disadvantaged by their location.

“I am planning to speak to the universities. I also hope to raise the profile of Welsh Baccalaureate as it seems that more and more institutions are realising its value and including it in their offer. I spoke to a medical school just last week who are going to include it in their offer next year – they just hadn’t realised how valuable a qualification it is!

“Before going to the conference I will be making sure the students are aware of the programme so that they can maximise their Seren experience. I want them to consider what they want to find out and which seminars will benefit the most.”

If you haven’t already, please download the timetable here.

Seren Conference 2019 has gone mobile! Get the app on your mobile device now, for free.

Download on the App Store here.

Get it on Google Play here.

19th Nov

A guide to Oxford and Cambridge admissions

In this blog, Dr Matt Williams, (Access Fellow at Oxford) and, Sandy Mill (Schools Liaison Officer at Cambridge), provide their insights to help you stand out from the crowd in the highly competitive world of Oxbridge admissions.

Matt and Sandy will be running a session at the 2019 Seren Conference in December about ‘Making an Oxbridge application’.

Where should you start when thinking about Oxbridge admissions? 

Matt: How about we start at the finish?! What sort of people get places at Oxbridge and excel there? It’s all about academic ability and potential for us.

We’re not looking for students with a hugely impressive list of extra-curricular activities like DoE Gold or climbing Kilimanjaro. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that stuff, we’re just not able to use it as a means of picking students.

We’re looking instead for a strong (but not necessarily perfect) set of grades and the potential to excel in small group tutorial teaching.

Sandy: It’s not about who is the “smartest” person either.

We do want intelligent students with very good grades, but most of all we are looking for those who are going to learn in the ways that we teach – particularly through the supervisions and tutorials.

We want people who are able to talk about the things that they are passionate about; open-minded individuals who are able to take new information on board and draw their own conclusions; students who are willing to question authority and push back the boundaries of what we know.

People who don’t take ‘I don’t know’ as the end of the story, but who regard that as a challenge to overcome.

Matt: So, we’re hunting for curious minds and people who don’t just parrot information but think for themselves.

How can students become more curious and independently minded?

Matt: People tend to assume Oxbridge students are born a certain way and that it’s impossible to attain that level of intellect otherwise. However, it’s all about curiosity and independent thinking and these qualities, at least in part, can be learnt.

Start with a question about the universe that is personally interesting and do some research on it. For example, how come some trees are so tall? How much does the internet weigh? Why does anyone care how I pronounce the word ‘scone’? — then hunt for answers.

Read books and academic articles, download podcasts, watch lectures and vlogs on YouTube, chat with teachers and friends.

What do you think the answer might be to your puzzle? If someone has a different answer, don’t necessarily abandon yours, work out why you disagree.

Don’t forget, at the outer limits, practically all of academia is guesswork. We don’t have definitive answers to many of the most interesting questions about the world or the wider universe.

Good guesswork is often the name of the game and Year 12 students need to build a bit of confidence in their guessing abilities.

What can you do to make a brilliant, stand-out application?

Sandy: I say this a lot, but quite simply go and geek out! Explore your subjects and engage with them as much as possible. It should be fun, interesting and a great excuse to find out more about the things that amaze, puzzle and stimulate your mind.

If you’re not sure what you’re into, explore different things that capture your interest and dive deeper to see if they are something you are truly passionate about.

Talk with other students about your interests and attend any sessions on application preparation to help you get all of the information you need to navigate applications effectively.

 Matt: The most important resources you need are time and energy.

Pursue a subject that gives you energy! That is, something you find so interesting that you are impelled to look further and deeper into.

How should you decide between subjects, or between Oxford and Cambridge?

Matt: Ask yourself What do you love studying? What could you read about on a day off and not be bored by it?

For me that’s always been politics. I could read and think about politics, even when I don’t have the energy to do anything else. Politics is such a hilarious and grubby soap opera, and it’s got me hooked. It’s like a box set that I can’t binge-watch because new episodes keep coming out!

A lot of students start by thinking about careers. That is sensible, but shouldn’t be the sole consideration. For instance, a lot of people say they want to be lawyers and so they will apply to study Law as a result. You don’t need to study Law as an undergrad to be a lawyer. You can convert from almost any degree (even medicine) to Law. And if you’ve done well as an undergrad at a top uni, law firms will pay for your conversion.

Choose a subject you’re motivated to study.

If you want to get into Oxbridge for Law for example, you need to be enthralled to the academic study of Law — jurisprudence, civil procedure, torts, human rights etc.

Some of you will be thinking of applying for subjects you’ve never formally studied before — such as medicine, biochemistry, or Arabic. Find out what a degree in those subjects entails, read some academic works produced by tutors and ask will it hold my interest for three years of study?

Sandy: Find the course that most suits you and lets you study things you are interested in.

Check the reading lists and modules for courses online. Just because two courses share the same name, doesn’t mean that they have the same content.

If you arrived at university to find the course didn’t have a module on your particular interest, you would be sorely disappointed to be spending all that time and money on a course that didn’t do what you wanted it to.

Matt: As for choosing between Oxford and Cambridge, the first and most important point to consider is whether they offer the right course for you.

There are some major differences in degree programmes between the two — for example, Oxford has courses like PPE, and Cambridge has Natural Sciences rather than individual courses in Physics, Chemistry and Biology. But there are also a lot of similarities — both have fairly similar Medicine degrees, for instance.

Dig deeper and find out what, if any, relevant differences there are. Trust your gut. Which city do you prefer, if you’ve had a chance to visit them?

Ignore the nonsense myths. Oxford is not the one for humanities and Cambridge the one for sciences. They each excel at both. It can be a personal preference.

How should you decide which college to apply for?

Matt: Don’t overthink it. At the end of the day, you’re getting a degree from Oxford or Cambridge that counts the same regardless of which college you pick.

The academic experience is practically identical at all colleges, even if the facilities differ a bit.

Look at accommodation options and whether they can house you for the whole degree; what financial support is available; what other facilities they have like sports fields, and music rooms.

It’s also worth noting that Oxford and Cambridge operate sophisticated pooling systems between colleges which means you won’t be any less likely to gain a place at Oxford or Cambridge if you apply to a popular college.

Colleges can share applications around to ensure we take the best, regardless of which college they picked.

Sandy: I absolutely agree with Matt.

Make a list of the things you would like from a college and check to see which ones meet the most of those criteria.

Visit some colleges and see which ones feel like they could be your home for the next three or more years.

You may not receive an offer from your first choice due to the pooling systems, so it’s important not to get your heart too set on one particular college, as you may end up being accepted by a different one.

How can you prepare and plan for admissions test?

Sandy: The first step is to download the relevant preparation materials online, and check if you have an assessment before the time of your interview.

For Cambridge, find this here: www.cam.ac.uk/assessments

Prepare for these tests like an exam – learning the structures of papers, revising knowledge and practicing skills set on the specifications, and by doing the practice papers we provide online.

The Cambridge assessments are designed not to be able to be coached for but are more about practicing relevant skills and ensuring that you have any required knowledge (especially in the sciences).

Use your preferred exam techniques, look at the types of questions you will face, timings that you will need to follow and the structures of the papers, to help you prepare.

Matt: I’ve made videos on admissions tests (and the TSA test in particular) on our YouTube channel.

These tests need a lot of practice. They are among the most important predictors of who gets in, and practice improves performance.

How can you prepare for your interview?

Sandy: To put it very simply, get used to talking about your subject.

Build in time for discussions with a teacher, parent or guardian who can help you go deeper into your understanding of your chosen field.

Matt: You can do most, if not all, interview prep on your own.

I have two techniques that work well in preparing for interviews —the toddler and the kitten techniques:

The toddler technique:

Look at problems and even everyday items as if you’ve never seen them before and question everything.

If I ask a student to analyse an American flag, they’ll likely start by stating it has fifty stars and thirteen stripes. That’s fine, but a toddler would look at an American flag as something entirely new to them and would ask lots of questions — Why is it that shape and those colours? What even is a ‘flag’? Why do the stars have five points? Why are the stars stuck in a box in one corner? 

The toddler technique can be used on anything. It ensures that you think about a problem for yourself not for somebody else.

The kitten technique:

Is all about tenaciously pulling at threads, like a kitten with a ball of wool!

You need to keep asking yourself ‘Why?’ in response to any statement.

Why does the American flag have red in it? Maybe because it looks like blood.

Why does it look like blood, and why would anyone want that on a flag?! Erm, because spilling blood is an important part of building nations.

 But why? And why is blood red anyway? And why use blood to symbolise sacrifice, why not something else?

These techniques encourage you to analyse more deeply and think for yourself.

Practice it on past interview questions (of which I have hundreds that I can email to you — matthew.williams@jesus.ox.ac.uk

You can find out more about applying to and life at Oxford or Cambridge at the Seren Conference this December.

Bookings open for 2019 Seren Conference: 3 – 5 December 2019, Cefn Lea Park

Bookings are now officially open for the national Seren Conference which will be held on 3, 4 and 5 December at Cefn Lea Park, Newtown. The conference is a must-attend event for Year 12 Seren students and teaching professionals, and this year’s event promises to be one of the most exciting Seren conferences yet.

Held over three days, the conference will welcome around 1,500 students and teaching professionals. It promises to be an eye-opening and inspirational experience, seeing a host of brilliant speakers and academics from Wales, the UK and overseas attending to share their expertise. Each day will hold a jam-packed timetable of sessions designed to inspire, motivate and encourage students to make the most of Year 12 in preparation for applying to university.

Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams at the 2018 Seren Conference.JPG

What will students gain from the conference?

Hama Sharif from Llanishen High School is a Year 13 Seren student studying Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Attending the conference last year inspired him to apply to Oxford to study Medicine.

“When I arrived at Cefn Lea for the annual Seren conference I realised I was part of something really exciting. The whole experience of the day really opened my eyes and made me realise there was a whole world of opportunity out there for me.

“The day was packed full of workshops around the whole range of subjects, as well as masterclasses, all designed to guide you through the university application process. This year’s conference is all about promoting learning beyond the classroom to give you the all-important edge over your competitors in university applications.

“For me, standout sessions will be ‘Communicating your Skillset’, ‘Adjusting to University Life’ and ‘Standing out from the Crowd’.

“It was interesting to hear that as a result of attending the 2018 conference 80% of students were more motivated to apply to a leading university and 84% were more knowledgeable of what it takes to successfully apply to a leading university. I can vouch for this – the conference is an all-round engaging experience that opens your mind to opportunities and tells you that you have what it takes to go to the best universities in the world.

“The conference is an intense day but so worth it. It’s unmissable really. There isn’t another opportunity that you’ll get to meet representatives from universities in the UK and in the US, hear from really inspirational people who are at the cutting-edge of their field and find out about what scholarships and bursaries are available to you at university, all under one roof.”

SEREN Cardiff Hama Sharif (2).jpg

What’s included for teaching professionals?

Almost all the sessions in the teaching professionals timetable are brand new this year, and range from supporting student mental health and wellbeing to supporting MAT learners with perfectionism, and how best to support learners in rural environments.

Sessions for professionals will feature real-time case studies, incorporating peer-to-peer learning where possible, so that teachers can benefit from tips and strategies around these topics.

For the first time this year we will host two dedicated finance sessions for both students and teaching professionals. Student Finance Wales will explain what support is available to help with tuition fees and living costs for Welsh students, and we will also welcome scholarship app developer Grant Fairy, who will run through how to access scholarships and bursaries from universities across the UK.

The Seren Conference is free to attend and is a fantastic opportunity for teachers to boost their career by picking up CPD points.

Last year, 98% of professionals rated the conference as good or excellent, and 88% reported that they had benefitted by being able to support their most able students and that attending the event had added value to their local hub programme.

Dr John Roe, director of Sixth Form at Radyr Comprehensive School in Cardiff, has been to the conference for the past two years.

“There is such a fantastic range of opportunities available for both students and teachers. Being able to attend masterclasses with fellow students from around Wales who share a particular love and enjoyment of a subject area is one of the main reasons why this conference is so popular and successful.

“Teachers attending the conference can choose from a menu of fantastic professional development opportunities. These include sessions aimed at developing strategies to support MAT learners, sessions designed to help teachers support student wellbeing, advice on how best to support students with admission tests, personal statement and reference workshops, and opportunities to network with colleagues from across the educational sector in Wales and the UK.

“The conference is a unique opportunity for teachers to develop their knowledge and skills completely free of charge, and to leave with a range of strategies that they can take back to their schools and colleges which will have a direct impact on the quality of educational provision, support and guidance that they are able to provide for their students.”

BBC Wales Sports journalist and presenter, Catrin Heledd, will host this year’s event for the first time. Since graduating from Aberystwyth University and Cardiff School of Journalism, Catrin now presents on Scrum V and Clwb Rygbi.

How do I book?

We’ll be posting more detailed information about sessions and how to make the most of the conference over the coming weeks. Places for the conference are allocated on a first come, first served basis, so book early to avoid disappointment.

The full student timetable can be viewed here

The full professional timetable can be viewed here

To book conference places visit click here and follow the instructions. Please note; teaching staff can book up to 15 students on one form. All groups must be chaperoned by a member of staff or a responsible adult. Professionals are required to book onto the sessions they wish to attend.

Hear from Seren students about their thoughts on starting university!

Starting university can feel overwhelming and be a scary experience. but hearing how others are preparing can help you feel at ease and excited for the journey.

We’ve asked some of our Seren students who are starting university this year to share with us their thoughts on becoming first year undergraduates.

Amy Martin is going to the University of Warwick to study Engineering.

Charlotte Belton is studying Mathematics at Durham University.

Joe Lagorio Price is going to Selwyn College to study Medicine.

Why did you choose to study your subject?

Amy – I’ve always loved engineering, ever since I competed in the F1 in Schools competition. I am currently involved with Williams F1 as a member of their academy, so engineering felt like a natural route to progress into.

Charlotte – I chose to study maths because I’ve always loved the subject. The understanding it allows me to gain of everything is what draws me to it. I love the abstract concepts and the way it explains basic things we normally take for granted.

Joe – I’ve wanted to do medicine since I was a young boy so it was a natural progression to follow this route at university.

Why did you choose this university?

Amy – I choose Warwick because of the friendly atmosphere. I felt really happy when I went to their open day, even though it was torrential rain!

Charlotte – I chose Durham for its reputation for quality education as well as its rich history.

Joe – I chose Cambridge because I really liked it as a university, and it has a good reputation.

How are you feeling in the lead up to starting university?

Amy – I’m really excited to gain some independence when I move away from home, I’m excited to meet new people and learn new skills!

Charlotte – Whilst I am feeling nervous for university, I’m excited. It is such a big change but one I look forward to.

Joe – I am feeling excited in the lead up to university and I can’t wait to start first year with freshers’ week and meet new people.

Do you have anything planned for the first few weeks at university?

Amy – I’m hoping to join some sports teams within my first few weeks. I’m looking at joining the swim team and cheerleading!

Charlotte – I don’t really have anything planned yet but I do know that my university is organising some events, I just have to wait a couple weeks to find out.

Joe – I plan to join a few societies and am looking forward to having a good time in freshers’ week.

How are you finding packing and saying goodbye to your friends and family at home?

Amy – It’s really scary packing up all your things and actually coming to terms with not being physically close to your family anymore, but I’m really excited to see what I can get up to in the next four years.

Charlotte – I’m finding packing fine, but I know saying goodbye will be sad while also happy. My friends and family know I’m doing something I enjoy and they’re happy for me, but it will be odd moving away.

Joe – It’s hard to leave my family and home, but it won’t be long until I see them in December so I’m not too worried about saying goodbye.

What are your expectations for your first year?

Amy – I’m hoping my first year will bring about lifelong friendships and memories (especially freshers’ week). I’m also looking forward to finally studying the area I’m interested in; I can focus all of my time on engineering now.

Charlotte – I’m trying to not have many expectations for university life so I can just relax and enjoy whatever happens.

Joe – I think first year is going to be tough, but I’ll try my best to succeed.

How has Seren helped you prepare for university?

Amy – Seren has given me an incredible boost in my confidence; the Oxford Jesus College Summer School has especially eased my thoughts on going to university. I made so many friends and had such a good time in that one week, how could I not enjoy uni life!

Charlotte – My Seren hub coordinator has done so much for me. She even helped me pick my university, especially when I was struggling to pick my firm and insurance choices.

Joe – Seren has helped me prepare for university through the tips and advice from various talks I have been to put on by Seren.

To all our Seren students starting university this year: make sure you get involved and make the most out of all the opportunities and support available for you.

Good luck!


The Seren Network, in conjunction with Oxford University, is running a series of three regional events to support all Year 13 Seren students, who are applying to leading Universities that have admissions tests as part of their entry criteria this year. Following the October deadline for University applications, selected students will be invited by universities to sit the formal admission tests relevant to their specific courses. To help prepare our Seren students for these formal admission tests, we have designed a series of admission test prep sessions at three locations. Admission tests are not offered for all courses.
You may attend any one of these three sessions, depending on which session/date is more convenient for you.

  1. 11th September at Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  2. 12th September at Bangor University, Bangor
  3. 13th September at Deeside Sixth form College

Students will be coached by a combination of current Oxford students or experienced tutors who have successfully completed or helped prepare students to sit admission tests. They will offer pupils an invaluable insight into the Oxford application process and share general knowledge and tips about the aptitude tests.
It really is an essential day for any Seren student aiming to apply for a place at a leading university this year to provide the practical guidance and advice they need to score highly in these aptitude assessments. These workshops have been designed to give pupils a well-rounded view of the style of tests and interview process unique to these elite universities and will help boost their confidence in the application process.
The day will consist of advice from university professionals, an overview of the tests and practical sessions.
9:30am Registration and welcome
10am Plenary session on Admission Tests
10:30am – 12:30pm Selected Admission Test Session
12:30 to 1pm Lunch
1pm to 3pm Selected Admission Test Session
3pm End

Lunch and refreshments will be provided.


  1. TSA – Thinking Skill
  2. HAT – History
  3. ELAT – English literature
  4. LNAT – Law
  5. BMAT – Biomedical
  6. PAT – Physics
  7. MAT – Maths
  8. MLAT – Modern languages

Students can sign up via the following link:
Important Additional Information

  • These sessions have been designed in addition to the outreach sessions being delivered by colleagues at Cambridge university during September and October. Details about the Cambridge led sessions scheduled for South Wales can be found in the link below:
  • http://www.chu.cam.ac.uk/southwales

Details about the Cambridge led sessions for Mid and North Wales will be provided by your local Seren Hub Co-ordinator but the dates for your diaries are:

  • 24 September 2019 Ceredigion
  • 1 October 2019 Conwy / Denbighshire
  • 2 October 2019 Anglesey / Gwynedd
  • 3 October 2019 Flintshire / Wrexham

All students looking to apply to a leading university where they would be expected to sit admission tests should attend both sessions as both Oxford and Cambridge will be delivering complementary advice, support and guidance.

Travel – Schools/colleges to make their own arrangements to support their students to attend the sessions

Pre-Session Prep – Students should be familiar with the format of their chosen test, and have looked at specimen papers, mark schemes and model answers in advance of the day through http://www.admissionstesting.org. Students to bring writing materials and calculators.

For any queries on the content, please contact seren@cazbah.biz

An agenda and joining instructions will be shared with you closer to the event.

You will also find a copy of our privacy notice here.03.07.19 mh SEREN event Cardiff53

My experience of Harvard Summer School

This summer, 23 Seren students have had the opportunity to attend the Harvard Pre-College Program Summer School.


 We hear from Tyler Rawlings, a Seren student from the Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire hub about his experience on this amazing trip…

Tell us about the trip

I went to the Harvard Pre-College Program between June 24th and July 5th to take the ‘Introduction to Astrophysics’ course.



What were your classes like?

My classes ran from Monday to Friday 8:30am to 11:30am, and I received about three hours of homework a day, with some homework assignments being much bigger tasks, such as making a presentation to give on the last day.

In my course, our classes were a general overview of what content would be covered in the full course that you could study as an undergraduate at Harvard.

I’ve been interested in becoming an astrophysicist for a few years now, but I’d never been sure of exactly what that would entail.

I decided that taking the astrophysics course would be the perfect way to experience what it would be like, and now that my two weeks are over, I couldn’t be happier with my decision.

It was a massive step up from the level of difficulty in school, and classes were much more intense due to how densely packed with information they were.

However, this wasn’t a problem, as my professor was really understanding and was happy for us to make plenty of mistakes so we could learn from them to find the right answers.

My class also included an evening session where spent part of the night using one of the telescopes and domes on campus to observe some space objects such as nebulae, stars, planets, galaxies, and globular clusters.

I really enjoyed spending the night with my class and conducting some interesting practical work.

Through my class, I made plenty of friends through talking to people during lessons and breaks, and through group work.

Overall, I really enjoyed my classes, as the content was exactly what I hoped for and it was interesting to find how different the teaching process is in Harvard as opposed to my school.H4.jpg



What other classes did you take?

On top of the classes we were given, we were also able to choose some extra academic sessions and recreational activities to take part in.

I ended up choosing talks on public speaking, the future of the global economy, time management, and managing stress.

I really enjoyed the talks I signed up for, and I managed to learn a lot from them all.

As a result of the public speaking session, I felt myself grow in confidence a little.

The time management and managing stress talks were extremely helpful and gave me useful and insightful advice that I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise, and the global economy talk was also very interesting.

What was life outside of classes like?

On the recreational side, I chose a board game night, a day trip to Rhode Island, and going to see the Boston Red Sox (a baseball team) play.

The game night was a fun, slow evening which I could spend with the other Seren Students and with the new friends I made.

In my spare time when I wasn’t in any classes, doing any homework or participating in extra activities, I spent all my time socialising and adventuring around the Harvard campus and Boston.

Doing this, I managed to make lots of new friends from many different countries and we made some great memories together.

Meeting people and making friends with them was easy, even for someone who doesn’t excel socially like myself.

At Harvard, you’re also put in a ‘proctor group’ to meet new people. In my group, we had meetings where we got to know each other over the fortnight, and through those meetings I became good friends with my roommates and the people in the rooms nearby.

On the whole, we were given plenty of time to have a social life around our work, so that we could enjoy our time exploring the country and getting involved in the culture.



What was your favourite memory?

My favourite memory of the program has to be the Fourth of July celebrations.

Due to Independence Day being a national holiday, we were given a day off to do what we wanted.

In the morning, a group of us went to Boston and watched the Independence Day parade, which was great fun and it really highlighted the difference in culture.

We also went to listen to the Boston Pops, an orchestra group, and watched the fireworks.

As the celebrations took place the day before we left, it felt like a fitting ending to our two-week journey.

I was outside at night on the Fourth of July, stood with the friends I’d made and spent lots of time with over the course of the fortnight, watching the best firework show I’d ever seen in my life.

It felt like a suitable finale to the program, and I felt so happy to be there.


Make sure to keep an eye on our social channels this month where we’ll share more highlights of Harvard from other Seren students throughout August…


Seren Celebration

Take a look at our roundup video of last week’s Seren Celebration event at Cardiff Bay.

We hosted Seren students from across our hubs all over Wales at a two-day event in Cardiff who had the chance to hear from broadcaster Guto Harri, entrepreneur expert Georgina Campbell Flatter, Oxbridge student ambassadors and Minister for Education, Kirsty William AM.

The event was a fantastic opportunity for us to announce Seren’s ongoing success with its international partners in the US, with 2019 seeing 53 Seren students take part in funded summer school events and nine Seren alumni heading to the US to study as undergraduates this autumn.



Spotlight on: International Politics and Global Development

Ffion, 19, is currently studying International Politics and Global Development at the University of Aberystwyth.

Originally from Newcastle Emlyn, where she studied A-levels in Spanish, History and the Welsh Baccalaureate at Ysgol Gyfun Emlyn, Ffion knew she wanted to study Politics as her degree subject and had her heart set on Aberystwyth.


Ffion said, “The course at Aberystwyth is internationally renowned as being one of the best for studying International Politics. The department is in the UK’s top ten for student satisfaction and is extremely well-established, currently celebrating its centenary. The course offers a wide choice of modules, from Women in Politics to Global Inequality. Unlike other courses I looked at they really delve into the issues that effect people and politics on a global scale, particularly in the global south. Most other courses focus on US, Europe or British politics but I have found it really interesting, and important, to understand more about how the less developed countries’ political systems work. I find it all fascinating.

“Another great thing about studying in Wales is that Aberystwyth University offers any fluent Welsh speakers, like me, the chance to do the whole course through the medium of Welsh. Personally, I chose to do my course in English but I think it’s great that the option is available as this appeals to so many students here who can continue to speak their first language. There are many students who have come to Wales from all over the world and that always makes for lively debate and the chance to get know other people from different backgrounds.

“The department at Aberystwyth is home to Interstate which is a politics journal that is entirely run by students, giving current undergraduates like me the chance to have their work published.

“I have learned that high profile politicians studied at Aberystwyth including Carwyn Jones AM who is a huge idol of mine. I admire him as a leader and closely followed his career. He was a key influence on my love of politics in Wales. Gareth Thomas and TV presenter Alex Jones studied here too.

“I also love Aberystwyth. It has so much to offer as a town – not only is it next to the sea, it’s surrounded by amazing countryside which offers so many outdoor activities and beautiful walks. I absolutely love being outdoors and exploring, so it’s the perfect place to be. The town also has a lovely community feel to it and there is lots going on, you just have to delve into the pulse of the town. As I’m interested in politics and issues, there is always a cause or campaign for me to get involved in!

“Before I decided on Aberystwyth, the teachers at my school did help me to explore other options but when I did, I realised that the course at Aberystwyth was the best option. I have done a lot of relevant work experience so I was pretty confident that I’d at least get considered. I’ve been a member of the Labour party since I was 15 and have been actively involved in campaigning since then. I’m really interested in current affairs and the issues that can have an impact on our everyday lives.

“Neither of my parents went to university but my older sister did, so my parents have always been really supportive when it came to me applying. They were even happier when I told them I’d found the perfect course and it was only an hour away from home.

“The advice and support that the Seren programme offers to help students like me is fantastic. From writing a personal statement to completing the UCAS form and mock interviews, it’s great that specialist guidance from leading universities is available for those who might need that extra boost in confidence. Applying to university can be daunting and for some, it might be hard to know where to start. I was pleased when I found the perfect course at Aberystwyth as I never really wanted to go anywhere too far from home.”