Tavistock College Students Visit Cambridge University

Profile image for VAllen2012

By VAllen2012 | Tuesday, November 06, 2012, 10:09

Students from Tavistock College recently visited Cambridge University as the guests of Downing College. They learnt how to apply to Oxbridge, toured the College, met with members of the academic staff, engaged in a debate with undergraduates and still found time to go punting in the evening.

Read an account of their day written by Freya Chambers, a Year 10 student at the College.

Notoriously hard to get into, and rigorously academic, Cambridge has a reputation that matches its status at the 2nd best university in the world - admittedly, one that carries an elitist stigma. But what is it really like in the hushed libraries and hallowed colleges of Cambridge? Unless you have studied there it is hard to form an idea of what an Oxbridge experience is really like. Nevertheless, desks were left empty on 22nd October as gifted and talented students from Tavistock College visited the famous university to try and catch a glimpse of the elusive ideal of Oxbridge academia.

At first glance, Cambridge is no more than a picturesque town - not so very different from Tavistock. There are cobbled streets, ivy clad houses, and even a duck pond. Yet further in the town becomes grander, quaint houses giving way to stately, cathedral-like buildings and the green quadrangles of the university colleges.

It was a misty day when we arrived, which only added to the atmosphere; I was almost expecting spires and steeples to loom out of the fog and tweed-wearing, bespectacled professors to hurry past with armfuls of dusty books. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite like that, but the reality wasn't far off. Punting down the river Cam, dining in hall, even wandering down the streets - the more of Cambridge I saw, the more captivated I was.

Two days spent in a place as rich in history and tradition as Cambridge is a long time, and yet not long enough. By the time we left there were still alleyways to explore, secluded courtyards to discover, libraries shelves to peruse, colleges to admire, bridges to cross... The beauty alone was enough to inspire us to return. Perhaps the most beautiful memory of the trip was the evening spent attending Evensong in King's College Chapel. Victorian lamp posts pooled light on to the courtyard outside, while inside angelic voices rang out amongst the grand pillars and beams of Gothic architecture. That something so awe-inspiring could take place in a school - it was almost unreconcilable with my experience of education so far. But then again, Cambridge is not like other schools. Over 800 years old, and steeped in history, Cambridge (and Oxford) have redefined the word 'study'. Cambridge students aren't just there to get a degree; they are there to learn about a subject they love, in a place dedicated to knowledge. I can't imagine a better university experience than that.

The trip, led by Gifted and Talented Co-ordinator and English teacher, Mrs Hubbard, and Pete Rodgers, Governor, could not have come at a better time. For the Year 10 students on the trip, exams are just around the corner; over the next 4 years, their social lives will gradually recede, to be replaced by essay deadlines, overdue library books and heaps of revision. With mounting exam pressure comes concern over university prospects. Despite conflicting attitudes towards Cambridge, its academic prestige cannot be denied; only the best and the brightest can hope to get in. This can sound daunting, and discourages many students from considering applying. Another cause for aversion from applying to Oxbridge is its reputation for elitism. While the universities appear to favour public schooled students, trips like this one show an effort on behalf of the university to encourage more state school students to apply. The trip aimed to dismiss the notion that, much like the spires of Cambridge's colleges, the dizzying academic heights of Oxbridge are beyond the reach of students from a Devon comprehensive. And it succeeded. Out of the 22 students who went, 15 said that they would definitely be applying.

"It was inspiring. I'd love to go, and it now seems like a possibility," said one student.

A trip to Oxford university is being planned for the future, as a result of this trip's success.



  • Profile image for PGStrange

    This is a fascinating account of what was clearly a useful and informative visit to Cambridge university. Many thanks for sharing it with us on Tavistock People. I look forward to a follow-up piece from your visit to Oxford University.
    Paul Strange, Community Publisher, South Devon (including Tavistock People website)

    By PGStrange at 22:57 on 07/11/12

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