What to expect at next week’s ‘Above and Beyond’ Seren conference 2017


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Please note more details will be issued later this week to the person who made your booking containing all event logistics. In the meantime, here’s an overview of what to expect…


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1,200 of Wales’ brightest students, 30 universities, 30 outstanding speakers – all in one place. We hope you’re as excited as we are!

This year’s Seren conference has been aptly named ‘Above and Beyond’, because that’s what Seren is all about, helping Wales’ brightest students go the extra mile and aim for the best universities in the UK and beyond.

Throughout the two-day event, at Cefn Lea in Newtown, both students and teachers take part in ‘stretch and challenge’ activities, including academic masterclasses, advice and guidance sessions, and professionalism workshops.

All students will take part in their selection of the following workshops. Don’t panic if you don’t know which sessions you’re attending, on arrival you’ll be given a programme and a lanyard reminding you where you need to be and when.

Here’s a reminder of the three strands:

Professionalism sessions

-Plotting your career path

-Standing out from the crowd


Academic masterclasses


-Language, Literature and Culture

-Natural Sciences

-Engineering, Physics, Maths and Computing

-Medical Sciences



Information, Advice and Guidance sessions

-Getting career-ready at uni

-Adjusting to university life

-Effective study skills

-Admissions tests

-Finance, bursaries and scholarships

Alongside your masterclasses, which will be led by leading university academics, here’s a flavour of some of your keynote speakers:

Elin James Jones – Brexit Scrutiny and Communications Manager, House of Commons
Tomos Wood – Seren alumnus and University of Cambridge student
Liam Rahman – Yale University graduate, and Yale Alumni Schools Committee member
Dr Matt Williams – Access and Career Development Fellow, Jesus College, University of Oxford

Dr Michael Englard – Director of Research, Higher Education Access Network

Other key highlights

  • Fancy studying in the States? For the first time, Yale will have a presence at the conference, and will be on-hand to explain their Yale Global Scholars Programme
  • Oxford and Cambridge Universities, which increasingly coordinate their activity in Wales through Seren, will also be in attendance as part of this and will also lead specific sessions, including ‘navigating the application and admissions process’
  • More than 30 universities will be exhibiting – so make sure you get some questions ready!

If you have any questions relating to the event, please email seren2017@cazbah.biz

We look forward to seeing you there!





Everything you need to know about admissions tests – and how the Seren conference can help


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David Harrison is from Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing

Thinking about going to university is a big step into the future.  You’ll be encouraged to think of the possibilities: so many universities, so many courses – and the opportunities: going to new places, even new countries, working with different people, experiencing different things.

And then people start talking about meeting requirements, being interviewed, even sitting admissions tests.  I am frequently asked why universities have admissions tests and it always leaves me momentarily feeling like the bad guy. I’m telling you there’s this ‘barrier’ stopping you from taking that big step and enjoying those possibilities and options.

Then I take a breath and tell myself, I’m a good guy. Then I’ll tell a potential student about how taking an admissions test is actually a good thing for them. They honestly are a way for the university to see if you have the aptitude and ability to do well on their course. Emphasis on the ‘you’. These tests don’t depend on how good your school is or how good your teachers have been. They are all about your ability to think and apply your knowledge and understanding.

And then I’ll tell you something you won’t believe at first. But once you understand it is true then you’ll smile. The truth is that these admissions tests are an opportunity for you to show the university just how good, how amazing you are. Show them your true potential and let them know that you to be a student at their university.

If you don’t believe me, then come along to my sessions at the Seren 2017 conference. I’ll explain just how admissions tests work, what they are testing and the best ways you can be prepared for them. With teachers, I’ll talk through the different admissions tests used by universities and discuss effective ways to ensure students are fully prepared them. Throughout the day, I’ll be happy to answer questions in-between sessions.

As a first step towards that, take a look at the Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing website and make use of the wide range of free preparation materials, guidance, past papers and other resources available. Everything there has been produced with the aim of making our admissions tests accessible to everybody and to enable you to show your true potential.


What to expect from the ‘Above and Beyond’ academic masterclasses



Take a quick look at the academic masterclasses taking place on Wednesday 6th and Thursday 7th December, at ‘Seren 2017: Above and Beyond‘.

Engineering, Maths, Physics & Computing
In this session, questions around the implications of research into physical sciences will be examined. This session will be suitable for any student with an interest in any physical or mathematical sciences.

Who’s taking it?
Robert Worth, University of Manchester:  
Robert is a nuclear engineer, who takes a scientific approach to looking at the UK’s nuclear energy supply and investigates questions on how nuclear energy works and how safe it is to use.

Broadly focusing on historical research, these sessions will focus on a variety of skills and themes used in all areas of humanities research and university-style learning.

Who’s taking it?
Wednesday: Claire Harrill, University of Birmingham
Claire focuses on the way in which women represent themselves in literary and historical texts, with a particular interest in the role of queens, and how texts construct the idea of a ‘perfect’ queen.

Thursday: Marci Freedman, University of Manchester
Marci’s research looks at Medieval travellers – such as Benjamin of Tudela – and how they were received by their contemporaries.

Language and Culture
Suitable for any student interested in literature or culture, this masterclass will focus on research from Cardiff University that looks at the intersection of literature, language and culture.

Who’s taking it?
Wednesday: Prof Claire Gorrara, Cardiff University
Claire researches narratives and memories of the Second World War in France, post-war French crime fiction and French photography and visual cultures.

Thursday: TBC

Medical sciences
This taster lecture will look at medical research and will be suitable for any students with interests in medical sciences and how research is being used to address medical conditions.

Who’s taking it?
Tom Graeme-Drury, Birmingham City University
Tom’s specific research focuses on neuroscience and psychology. He is currently working on a brain imaging investigation of chronic pain mechanisms.

Social Sciences
Through the lens of their specific research, both speakers will deliver masterclasses that will give students an insight into how social sciences are developing our understanding of social phenomena.

Who’s taking it?
Wednesday: Julius Ohrnberger, University of Manchester
Julius’ research aims to understand the causal relationship of financial cash incentives with mental health in low and middle income countries.

Thursday: Bridget Kerr, Swansea University
Bridget’s multidisciplinary research in the field of criminology and draws on psychology and sociology to look specifically at what crime is and what can be done about it.

Natural Sciences
TBC. We will update you soon!

The event details
Start time: registration – 9.15am for a 10am start
End time: 4.15pm

Refreshments and lunch will be provided throughout the day for students and teachers.

The closing date for bookings is Friday 17th November.
Teachers can book on students here. A programme is available here, and a session overview here.


Aspiring pilot joins bright students from Cardiff aiming to fulfil potential through the Seren Network


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Meet Pwyll who has aspirations of becoming a pilot.

A Cardiff teen who dreams of becoming a commercial pilot has joined a Welsh Government initiative to encourage outstanding Welsh students to achieve their academic potential.


17-year-old Pwyll Brynach from Canton was invited to be part of the Welsh Government-funded Seren Network after receiving five A*s, four As, three Bs and a C in his GCSE exams. He now hopes that the programme can help him achieve his dream of going to flight school.

The Seren Network was set up with the aim of assisting Wales’ brightest students to fulfil their potential academically, including applying to the UK’s leading universities.

Ysgol Gyfun Plasmawr student Pwyll says that even though his aim is to target aviation school rather than university, he still believes Seren will be a great help on the road to his dream career.

He said: “I’ve wanted to be a pilot from a very young age. I was always the child that wanted to see the cockpit whenever we went on holiday when I was little.

“My aim is to go to flight school rather than go to university, as that’s where you receive the necessary training to become a pilot. It’s an eighteen month basic course, with a further 3 months or so of training to fly particular types of aircraft, and at the end of it I would love to become a commercial pilot. It is also the case that increasingly degree courses are offered alongside flight training so this may also be a route that I’ll explore in considering my options during the next few years.

“If I wasn’t going to go to flight school, I would be considering studying history or Welsh at Oxford or Cambridge, as those are my favourite subjects, and both my parents studied at Oxford too.

“Although my path is slightly different to most students on the Seren Network, I know it will still be a great help to me, especially as the admissions process to flight school is so rigorous. I’ll have to go through assessments, interviews and aptitude tests, so I’ll be taking a particular interest in all the Seren sessions on admissions.

“I also hope that being part of Seren will help me build my confidence, meet new people, and allow me to improve my written and communication skills, which are all elements that will play an important role in my journey to flight school. My dream is to eventually become a pilot for a well-regarded airline like British Airways, and I believe that the skills I’ll learn through the network will help me to get there.”

The Seren Network was initially established following a report by Oxbridge Ambassador, Paul Murphy, former MP for Torfaen and now Lord Murphy, who was appointed by the Welsh Government to examine the decline in Welsh applications and admissions to Oxford and Cambridge. There are over 2,000 students on the network across 11 different hubs.

The network aims to increase Welsh representation not just at Oxbridge, but at the Russell Group and Sutton Trust 30 universities, by providing a two-year programme of information, advice and guidance, as well as workshops, lectures and visits to some of the UK’s top universities.

For more information about the Seren Network, visit www.gov.wales/seren

Five reasons students should attend ‘Seren 2017: Above and Beyond’


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  1. Meet more than 1000 other bright sparks who are just like you
    When you first go to university you’ll find yourself in completely new surroundings, with new friends and social groups. Pushing yourself outside your comfort zone will be key to thriving in new environments, and Above and Beyond will offer you a chance to meet over 1000 other high-achieving pupils. Seize the opportunity, share your experiences and aspirations, and make new friends for the future!
  2. Take your academic knowledge beyond the curriculum
    The most selective universities want to see how students have gone beyond the confines of the A-level curriculum to demonstrate passion for an area of study. Seren 2017: Above and Beyond is a chance for you to develop your understanding of a subject’s place within an academic discipline. What’s more, you’ll gain these new insights from some of the leading lights of UK academia – meaning you’ll be learning from the best. Come ready to take notes and ask questions from academics researching subjects you may have never heard of!
  3. Understand more about the importance of YOU as a brand
    Standing out in a university application is about more than just your academic talent. Above and Beyond will offer you a chance to take part in dedicated professionalism sessions on how to build your own personal brand, stand out from the crowd, and how to improve your employment prospects before and during university.
  4. Directly access the best universities in the UK and overseas
    A dedicated marketplace will see more than 40 leading universities on hand to share information and advice. This is a unique opportunity to hear from institutions you may not previously have considered, and to ask any questions you might have about all aspects of university life across the UK and overseas.
  5. Hear about what finance options are available
    Understandably, student finance is one of the most talked about topics for the students of today. A dedicated session on this issue will unpack it in more detail. You’ll learn all about the grants and loans on offer for students, and Welsh Government and university finance officers will explain the support and advise on how best to manage your finances.

The Seren Network annual conference in Newtown is aimed at both students and teachers. You can sign-up here, and a full session overview is available here.