My experience of the Seren Network, and tips for the upcoming Seren Conference

By Alex Roberts – Conwy, Denbighshire 

Alex Roberts

“I’m Alex, a first year at Cambridge University studying Biological Natural Sciences, and over the past couple of years I have been involved in the Seren Network. I attended quite a few of their events, where I was given the opportunity to explore different subjects, and speak with people from a lot of universities, which helped me to decide the path I wanted to go down.

“The Seren Conference is a chance for you to find out specifics about choosing a course, universities, applications and other opportunities. There are a few things that you can do beforehand in preparation to make the most of your time there. It is important to plan what sessions you are going to attend, and to think about some questions you have on the relevant topics. So, for example, you’ve decided that you want to go to one of the subject talks (a particularly valuable resource if you aren’t sure about what course you want to do). Think about what you would need to know to begin making the decision of whether that course is the right one for you.

“Speaking to representatives of different universities at the conference gave me a clearer understanding of what was on offer. It is useful to try and have an idea of what it is that you want from a university, so that when you go to their stalls, you know what to consider, and what to ask. The representatives are good at giving you an idea of what their university is like, and what you need to do to get there should you like what you hear. I found this section of the day particularly helpful in choosing what universities to apply to, so don’t be scared to go and talk to people. Most universities will have copies of this year’s prospectus with them. They are invaluable in comparing universities, deciding on courses, and are extremely good for reference after the event – so don’t forget to pick one up!

“When it comes to making decisions about university, you aren’t realistically going to remember everything you hear or find out at the conference, a lot of which will be quite relevant. This is why it is important to take some notes. Though, it can be quite tempting to write every single thing down, and I have found that this can cause you to pay less attention to the talk itself, so try to keep it concise and just note down the most important things.

“Finally, make sure to be proactive. Ask lots of questions, tailor the event to what you need it to be, and find out what you need to know. Good luck, and enjoy!”

We are now fully booked for Tuesday 4th and Wednesday 5th December. There are still places available for Thursday 6th December and the good news is that the booking deadline has been extended to 21st November for this final date.

We’re pleased to announce our latest speakers to the Seren 2018: Above and Beyond annual conference taking place on 4-6 December.

Seren 2018: Above and Beyond Speakers – Students’ Programme:
Rebecca Watkins – Talent Attraction Manager, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water – Beyond Seren: Engaging with Employers

Rebecca Watkins

An HR professional with valuable experience and insight into employer requirements for recruitment including apprentice and graduate recruitment. My current role focuses on what our business wants in terms of talent, particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.

Random, Interesting Facts – I appeared as an audience member on “The Saturday Show” (a very old kids tv programme). I have sung in choirs and held the lead female part in my School’s take on “Little Shop of Horrors”. I have also received Classical singing training as part of my performing arts background – I’m not very good though.


Luke Healey – Freelance Tutor – Language and Culture Masterclass – Art History and Visual Studies: How to talk about Art, not-Art, and the difference between the two


I completed my PhD in Art History and Visual Studies at the University of Manchester in Winter 2017, submitting a thesis entitled “The Art of Football: Visual Culture and the Beautiful Game, 1992-2016”. Chapters from this thesis looking at subjects ranging from Zinedine Zidane to animated GIFs to tabloid treatments of “diving” have been published in a variety of places, including Cabinet magazine and two academic anthologies.

I have taught and arranged conferences and seminar programmes on a range of topics relating to art, literature and cultural theory, including tutoring on the Brilliant Club Scholars Programme module “Through the Looking Glass: An Introduction to Literary Theory” in 2016-17. I am currently busy on a number of essays about the relationship between sport and The Arts, in addition to working as a freelance tutor for a variety of companies including UKCN, an organisation that advises and assists international students in applying for postgraduate positions at prestigious UK universities.

Liam Rahman – Director & Co-Founder, E-Qual Education – Studying in the US – Studying overseas as an undergraduate / Career panel / International opportunities


A native of South Wales, Liam studied at Yale University (USA) and Yale-NUS College (Singapore), majoring in Philosophy, Politics & Economics (PPE). Prior to returning to Wales to further develop E-Qual, Liam also worked in investment management at BW Group and Goldman Sachs. Liam is a member of Yale’s Alumni Schools Committee (ASC), representing the university’s admissions and outreach efforts in the UK. An avid supporter of the Seren Network, in early 2018, Liam worked with Seren to establish the network’s partnership with the Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS) summer programme.

Lauren Hughes – Higher Education Advisor, University of East Anglia – Effective Study Skills

I am a qualified teacher with three years of teaching experience. For the last two years, I have been working at the University of East Anglia as a Higher Education Adviser. I work with sixth form students in Kent, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, West Sussex, East Sussex and Dorset but also travel to other parts of the UK now and again. I speak to students about finance, choosing a university and the right course, opportunities at

university, studying abroad and how to write personal statements.

Dr Hannah Hodgkiss-Geere – Senior Lecturer in Small Animal Cardiology/Director of Undergraduate Recruitment, Institute of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool – Applying to veterinary medicine and what can I do with a veterinary degree (and not just clinical practice!)

I am a veterinary surgeon who has been practising for over 12 years. During this time I have worked in farm animal and small animal general practice and am now a European Specialist in Small Animal Cardiology,

working in a University and actively teaching veterinary students. I have also worked in scientific research and have an MSc in virology, a PhD in cardiac stem cells and have ongoing research in both stem cells and

cardiac diseases. I also now am the Director of Undergraduate Recruitment for the University of Liverpool Vet School and am now actively engaging with students who may want to be vets, but also with students who may not have considered veterinary science as a possible degree option.

Angharad Thomas – Head of Strategy and Insights, Golley Slater Cardiff – Applying for the creative industries / Beyond Seren: engaging with employers


Angharad is originally from Gowerton in Swansea. She went to Ysgol Gyfun Gwyr, a Welsh medium comprehensive in Swansea. After school, she went on to study Modern Languages at Cambridge University – focusing on Italian and French. Her first graduate job was at DDB London (now Adam&EveDDB) a creative agency in Paddington. Though she started her advertising career in account management, she then went on to be a strategist (or planner) and worked at top global agencies including Wieden & Kennedy and WCRS. During her time in London, she worked on campaigns that have won awards at Cannes, DNADs, Creative Circle as well as IPA and APG effectiveness awards.

Though London was great fun, the pull of Wales was strong. Last year, she moved back to Wales to work at integrated creative agency Golley Slater, where she is now Head of Strategy and Insights. She works across all communications – from media, PR to, big TV ads. She says it’s great to be working at home in Wales, after being away for so long.

Dr Mandy Peffers – Wellcome Trust Clinical Intermediate Fellow/ Senior Lecturer – University of Liverpool – Getting into veterinary medicine


After a degree in Animal Science at the University of Leeds, I undertook my veterinary degree at The Royal Veterinary College, University of London and qualified as a veterinarian in 1995. I then spent 11 years in industry and private practice before going back to do a PhD supported by the Wellcome Trust. I first undertook a one-year Wellcome Trust Veterinary Research Entry Fellowship before becoming a Wellcome Trust Integrated Veterinary Training Fellow. The first three years of funding were for a PhD entitle ‘Proteomic and transcriptomic signatures of cartilage ageing and disease’. The next three years of the fellowship were in a post-doctoral role in which I studied ‘A Systems Biology Approach to Musculoskeletal Ageing’. I am currently a Wellcome Trust Clinical Intermediate Fellow studying ‘The role of small nucleolar RNAs in cartilage ageing and disease’. My research group consists of four PhD students and a research assistant.

I am a member of the ‘Admissions and Widening Participation Committee of the University of Liverpool Veterinary School’. As part of this role I interview potential vet students and assess the work experience documentation undertaken by prospective students. I am also veterinary undergraduate intercalation co-ordinator.

David Willock – Reader – School of Chemistry, Cardiff University – Natural Sciences with a focus on Chemistry and the overlap of Physics and Chemistry.


The research area will involve looking at the way that molecules can adsorb and react on solid surfaces.

My first degree is in Physics with Electronics from Salford University. I then moved to London to the Physics department of Queen Mary College, University of London to study photoconductivity in polymer materials. As part of that work I became interested in computer simulation applied to materials and after gaining the PhD moved to University College London to apply modelling to organic crystal structures in the Department of Chemistry there. Ever since I have worked in the application of computational techniques to chemical problems and am now working in Cardiff using theoretical chemistry to understand practical catalysis. In particular how surfaces can activate molecules to build new chemical structures.

Professor Dylan E. Jones – Deputy Vice Chancellor and Dean of the Athrofa: Institute of Education, University of Wales, Trinity St David – Maximising your Bilingualism


Prof Dylan E. Jones is Deputy Vice Chancellor and Dean of the Athrofa: Institute of Education at the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David (UWTSD)
Dylan ,of Bryncrug, Tywyn, Gwynedd was also Chair of the Welsh Government School Practitioner Panel, established to advise the Minister and support in the development of education policy in Wales. He was also a member of the Qualifications Wales Shadow Board.

Mark Llewelyn Evans – Opera Singer / Entrepreneur / Author / Creative Director, ABC of Opera Ltd – Applying for the Creative Industries


Welsh baritone Mark studied at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and the National Opera Studio, London and has worked alongside many major names in the entertainment industry including Katherine Jenkins, Alfie Boe, David Blaine, Rob Brydon, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. Mark`s career has taken him throughout the world from singing title roles in international opera houses, his one man show to 1,000`s, a blockbuster

movie as well as the ‘Bread of Heaven’ for The Six Nations Rugby tournament at the Millennium Stadium,

to 75,000. Mark’s debut album ‘Let the Light in’ topped the UK classical charts. He then released a

single, ‘Tell my Father’ performing with the Band of the Welsh Guards which became a number one in the

UK, benefitting the Welsh Guards Afghanistan Appeal. Mark was very honoured to be part of this appeal.

Mark is artistic director for Opera Sark, as well as Founder and Creative Director of ABC of Opera Ltd, an

educational project that delivers cross curriculum workshops introducing children to the wonder of

classical music. To date ABC of Opera has delivered to over 150 school with their first book of four “The

Academy of Barmy Composer” being publish in 2019 with a stage show to follow.

Ffion Bailey – Education Liaison Officer, University of St Andrews – Studying in the UK vs Studying Abroad

Originally from North Wales, I attended my local Welsh language schools before studying History at The University of St Andrews. Having enjoyed my time there so much, I decided to stay and started working for Admissions. The University of St Andrews combines the very best of our six centuries of history with contemporary culture and outstanding teaching. It is a busy and close-knit community which brings together

people from all over the world. We have been voted 1st for Student Satisfaction in the UK (National Student Survey 2018) and are ranked 1st in Scotland and 3rd in the UK in the league tables (The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019, The Guardian University Guide 2019). If you have any questions about St Andrews, please do ask.

I am contributing to the ‘Studying in the UK vs Studying Abroad’ talk in order to explain the flexibility and breadth of the Scottish degree structure and shine a light on all the great universities that students have to choose from. The choice of which university to attend is a personal one to you, and it is important that you study and live at an institution where you will be happy. My aim is to give you all the information you need to make that choice.

Seren 2018: Above and Beyond Speakers – Professionals’ Programme:
Mitchell Purnell – Area Manager, Unifrog Education Ltd – Enriching MAT Learners


At Unifrog, we believe that destinations – where students end up after school – is even more important than their academic performance. We partner with almost 1500 schools worldwide, to support students to progress into the best opportunity for them.

We do this by providing a one-stop-shop where students can explore their interests, then find and successfully apply for their best next step after school. We also enable the staff to manage the progression process effectively.

Luke Olsson and Michael Grugan – Graduate Teaching Assistant, York St John University – Student Health and Wellbeing- Perfectionism and Mental Health among Students

olsson MGrugan-Staff-Profile

Luke and Michael are currently doctoral researchers at York St John University where they are also members of the Motivation, Performance, and Well-being (MPAW) research group. This group is amongst the largest in the world dedicated to examining the causes and consequences of being perfectionistic. Over the past 4 years, the group has produced over 80 peer-reviewed publications in leading international journal and presented on the topic of perfectionism around the world. Their research has been funded by various organisations including the Wellcome Trust, The Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research, The Harold Hyam Wingate Foundation, and the European Union (Framework 7).

Anna Burchfiel – WP and UG Recruitment Officer, University of Bristol – The UCAS Process – an insight into the timeline and process of applying to university, and advice on what to do on A Level Results Day


Anna has been working in higher education for the past five years, assisting young people from a wide variety of backgrounds to access elite universities, degree subjects and professions. Anna has run

Confirmation and Clearing activities at a Russell Group university, and has a thorough understanding of UK university admissions.

More speakers to be announced soon…

Studying abroad: why might you look at studying outside the UK for your degree?

By Rowena Boddington

Rowena blog image 1

The Seren Above and Beyond Conference is a perfect way to learn about options outside the UK and especially about American universities

The Above and Beyond Conference is a great place to explore university options, but you might not have thought about studying outside of the UK entirely!

When I was 17, I had no idea that it was possible to study my degree abroad. I was lucky to discover a way to go, and having never been to the USA before I jumped on a plane on my own and headed off to a university in California. It was the most amazing period of my life and totally transformed me.

These days, I work at an organisation called Fulbright, which is the EducationUSA centre for the UK. We give free advice to students about how US universities work and how to apply to them.

Every year, students from Wales decide to make the big jump across the pond to study in the USA.

They do this for several reasons:

  • Subject flexibility and broad curriculum: in the USA, you don’t have to know what you want to study when you apply to universities, and all students will study a range of subjects before specialising in one or two (called majoring)
  • Study at a top university: Many of the world’s top universities are in the USA, and they produce world leading research and incredible teaching
  • Opportunities to internationalise your CV: in today’s connected world, employers are looking to fill their top jobs with people who have experienced different things and are comfortable and confident in working with a wide range of different people. Studies show that people who study abroad have higher average career earnings.
  • Experience the fun of campus life: US universities are places where you will work hard and play hard. Learning is encouraged inside and outside the classroom, and many classes have a practical element to them. Campus life is vibrant and full of opportunities, and school spirit is strong!
  • Generous funding is available: There are scholarships and financial aid available for Welsh students, and if you’re open minded you will find it can cost a lot less than you think – and even, in some cases, less than the UK!
  • Have an adventure and explore the world: The US is a big place with a lot of different people, and learning about and understanding them is a fascinating process. While you will have opportunities to travel and try new things, you will also boost your self-confidence and gain independence!

If you’d like to explore your dreams of studying outside the UK, the Seren conference is a great place to come and learn about the opportunities available. Attending the conference will enable you to:

  • Hear from representatives from top US universities
  • Hear from Welsh students who have, or are, studying in the USA
  • Discover opportunities such as the Seren partnership for summer programmes at top universities and also the Sutton Trust US Programme, which supports high achieving students from low income families apply to US universities.
  • Learn about study abroad opportunities as part of a UK degree, and postgraduate study in the US
  • Connect with Fulbright, who work to help students from Wales apply to US universities and learn more about the application process

We are now fully booked for Tuesday 4th and Wednesday 5th December. There are still places available for Thursday 6th December and the good news is that the booking deadline has been extended to 21st November for this final date.


How the ‘Above and Beyond’ conference helped me to help my students

Llŷr Evans
Key Stage 5 Leader
Ysgol Gyfun Garth Olwg

Mr Ll?r

“We all know what a difficult position being Leader of 6th Form is. We deal with a huge gamut of abilities and preferred destinations. These range, of course from job opportunities and apprenticeships to the most demanding of entry requirements into the most prestigious   universities in the world.

“Giving time to the most able has never been a huge priority as they are far too often referred to as the ones that ‘can’ and therefore ‘will’. We would always as a matter of course strive to assist these students but with all the requirements of running a 6th Form, these individuals receive much less time as we would like to allocate them.

“The ‘Hwb Seren’ project has completely transformed our day to work with these exceptional young people and this starts with the initial conference in Cefn Lea.

“The opportunities to understand and visualise these ‘destinations’ were superbly orchestrated. It afforded me a rare opportunity to engage with professionals in universities and understand a little more about assisting my learners in gaining access to these institutions. The lectures were invaluable for me and the students. I obtained insight into Oxbridge Applications and further understood the often complex entry requirements. I was able to utilise this information directly with several of our students.

“I was fortunate enough to also ‘drop in’ on many of the lectures available to the students. This allowed me to develop a series of ‘follow on’ workshops at school. We set up on-site interviews with input from Hwb Seren for the first time. We could tailor these to include the demanding questions which are asked by highly selective institutions.

“We rarely have students who to apply to ‘Oxbridge’ but this year we had two. One was a very close call but was still nonetheless offered a place at Durham University (which is in itself highly selective) and the other gained a place at Wadham College, Oxford. He is a featured in the Hwb Seren Pamphlet by the way!

“Without the assistance of the Hwb Seren conference, I am not even sure these two pupils would have contemplated even applying to ‘Oxbridge’ or any other highly selective institution. They are the first to admit that ‘Oxbridge’ was not even on their personal radar!

“The conference is an opportunity which is too good to miss. It empowers us to properly assist the talented young people with whom we work with every day.

“When I see our students gaining access to some of the most prestigious universities, I know that I have the best job in the world!”

Bookings have been flying in. If you haven’t booked yet, don’t leave it until the last minute as places are limited.

Closing date: 16 November


The Royal College of GPs: How to apply to Medicine

By Dr. Robert Morgan, Royal College of GPs

Deciding on a career in medicine is probably the easiest choice you’re going to make this year. It’s once you’ve made this decision that the work truly begins, as you’re taken on a journey that offers you a course and a job unlike any other.

There are 33 medical schools in the UK and it’s important you select the right one for you. This will depend on many factors, but a very useful resource is the medical school’s council website ( This will have all the information you need regarding entry requirements, course structure and expectations of your personal statement and interview. And don’t forget to visit the websites of any universities you’re interested in.


Dr. Robert Morgan

Preparing to go to university should involve doing some sort of work experience upon which you can reflect in your personal statement. Work experience does not have to be in a clinical setting such as a hospital or a GP practice, but it should provide an opportunity to develop an understanding of how the skills and attributes you have used in your work experience will be applied to a career in medicine. It may be useful to keep a reflective diary of your work experiences that you can use when writing your statement.

Most medical schools will require you to take either the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) or the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) and attend an interview. Both UKCAT and BMAT websites are useful in giving an overall picture of what you need to do for these tests and which universities use them. Remember though, like any test, practice will always help and both websites have practice questions.

Similarly, before you go to your interview, it’s important to find out what type of interview you will get and prepare for it in advance . All universities web pages will give you details of the type of interview you are likely to have. You should also try to go to Open Days to find out more. Some universities offer what you and I might think of as a traditional interview i.e. being asked questions by a panel. However, more and more universities, are adopting multiple mini interviews whereby applicants rotate round a number of stations, each lasting a few minutes and each exploring the personal qualities and attributes important in developing good doctors for the future.

All interviews, regardless of the format, will test your ability to think, interpret data and communicate your ideas. Once you know you have an interview and what type it is, you should practice as much as possible as this will make it go better on the day. For further information visit:


Max Rees, former Seren student now studying Medicine in UCL, says:

“When it comes to applying to Medicine, preparation is key and remaining both calm and focused through the remaining few months of A-Levels will get you through. Applications are due in early October of Year 13, and by then you should have completed either the UKCAT or BMAT (or both) entry examinations.

“Year 13 can be very stressful, more so at the beginning of the year, because there is quite a big jump up from the difficulty of Year 12 but keep up-to-date with the work and try to forget about your application after you’ve sent it off as much as you can. You should start getting offers for interview around Christmas time up until March, and hopefully after your interviews you’ll begin to get your offers of places.

“If you don’t get offers, however, don’t let this affect your performance in you’re A-Levels because good grades will stand you in good stead to reapply with more experience the following year.”

Why go above and beyond at this year’s Seren conference?

I’m Matt Williams from Oxford University, and this December will be my third time coming to the amazing Seren conference in Newtown. I can’t wait to meet you all!

But what will you get out of it? And why should you go ‘above and beyond’? Aren’t you doing enough already?!

Well, most likely, yes, you are very busy at school and with activities outside the classroom. So when we suggest you go ‘above and beyond’ we don’t mean you have to do loads more work. Instead it means that you should be more focused on what you’d like to achieve after school, and push yourself to do your best.

Thinking about university, apprenticeships or jobs after school can be pretty scary. The processes for applying are competitive, and that can be demoralising for some of us (and I do include myself) who are not particularly confident in their abilities.

But I want to share something I realised a few years ago. I could push myself to be competitive and fight off other applicants — or I could just push myself further because I enjoyed doing so and do it all for myself. Constantly fretting about what everyone else is doing is so draining. But doing something you love for your own pleasure is wonderfully energising.

So go above and beyond for you. Be the best *you* you’re capable of being.

And this is where the conference can really help. There’s going to be fantastic academic sessions run by the Brilliant Club that will take you way beyond your school work. Go along to these sessions and drink in the content for your own pleasure. Try and have some fun learning something new about the universe.

There’ll also be stalls with loads of universities represented — including a really friendly bunch of us from Oxford! Come and talk to as many people as possible. We want to talk to you. We won’t ever make you feel small or silly. There are no bad questions you could ask us. Sometimes the practicalities of applying to uni can be complex and daunting. So that’s why we’ll be there, to help you through it.

There’s also going to be drop in sessions to talk you through money matters, such as uni debt. We know that’s a common cause of anxiety amongst school leavers, but we’ll have loads of top tips and friendly advice to put your mind at rest.

So by the end of the Seren conference you’ll have gone ‘above and beyond’ because you’ll have learnt something new about the universe, and you’ll be more confident in how you can explore the subjects you love even further. And we will be more the happy to help you be the best *you* you’re capable of being!

Numerous bookings have already been received. Reserve your place soon to avoid disappointment!

The Social Mobility Foundation is coming to Wales!

We are the Social Mobility Foundation (SMF), and we are very excited that this year we are opening an office in Cardiff which means we can deliver our Aspiring Professionals Programme to students from across Wales. Applications are now open and the deadline to apply is 12pm, Wednesday 19th December 2018.

Every year, we help more than 1,600 high-achieving young people from low-income backgrounds realise their potential. Our programme supports those who may not have the knowledge or networks to access top professions. We work with young people from Year 12, right through university and into top jobs.

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There are a few different ways that we support students once they join our programme. Firstly we will help you with getting into a top university. That includes help on your personal statement, how to make an informed decision about which university you go to and all the other stages of your application like tests and interviews.

When you join the programme we will ask you all about your career aspirations and to pick a professional sector that you are interested in, from then on the programme will be tailored to that career sector. You will get matched up to a professional mentor who is currently working in the sector you have chosen. Our mentors are an amazing source of information and can give you a real insight of what it’s like to work day to day in their job. We have mentors from leading businesses such as KPMG, BBC, Amazon, Bank of England, Google, Linklaters and many more.

“Mentoring gave me an opportunity to explore my interests. If I hadn’t had a mentor my ideas for the future would be much more uncertain.” – Aspiring Professionals Programme Student.

Throughout your time on the programme you will also be offered lots of interesting workshops and skills sessions. During sixth form these are focussed on giving you an introduction to your career sector, and how to conduct yourself in a professional setting so that you are able to make the most of all your opportunities.

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The final part of the programme is the internship placements we provide. We have links with the leading law firms, banks, hospitals, engineering firms and many more and we can sort you out with fantastic internships. One student on the programme last year told us “The internship was so much more than I could have asked for. From networking to insight sessions… it provided me with incredibly valuable experiences that helped me in developing my professional skills and general confidence.” You won’t be photocopying and filing on any internship organised by us. Instead, you’ll shadow professionals to gain first-hand insight into your chosen area of work and, at the same time, strengthen your university application.

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Once you get to university our support will continue. We will help you prepare for the world of graduate recruitment, practise for interviews, perfect your C.V. and get into the top jobs!

We are so excited to be coming to Wales, and we want to support lots of Seren students this year. If you are interested then head over to our website to read all about the different programmes you can apply for:

And make sure you check the eligibility criteria by clicking here.

Remember the deadline is 12pm, Wednesday 19th December 2018. In the meantime if you would like to get in touch, or for us to come and visit your school just contact us using the details below.

Phone: 020 7183 1189