Lois Williams, Senior Higher Education Partnerships Project Manager at Equal, describes her firsthand experience as an instructor at the Seren International Summer School and the benefits of getting involved in the project in 2023.
For the fourth year running, we are collaborating with Jesus College at the University of Oxford to deliver the Seren International Online Summer School. This programme has gone from strength to strength since its inception in 2020, with a total of over 700 of Wales’ most able learners having taken part to date.
I was fortunate to be a part of this programme from the early days when I was an undergraduate at Jesus College. I first got involved as an instructor for Literature and Modern Languages, as well as coordinating the overall timetable for the other instructors. This was how I first met the Equal team, and taking this position is ultimately what led me to begin my career here as a Project Manager, and now Senior Associate, after finishing my Masters degree.
Having experienced the programme as an instructor and coordinator, I know just how valuable this experience can be for university students as they try to explore potential career options and widen their skillset.
What is the Seren International Online Summer School?
Originally designed as a response to the loss of opportunities during the pandemic, the first Seren International Online summer school offered an academically rigorous two-week programme for high-achieving learners who were due to participate in residential summer schools in the US through the Welsh Government’s Seren programme.
The success of the 2020 pilot programme paved the way for an expansion of the programme in 2021 to host up to 300 learners, and up to 400 learners in 2022. We are hoping for this number to grow further in 2023.
During the programme learners spend the two weeks attending lectures, seminars and workshops delivered by academics and student instructors from top universities all over the world, as well as researching and completing capstone projects which are presented to Welsh Government officials at the end of the programme.
It is an excellent opportunity for year 12 learners to expose themselves to new academic niches, gain independent research skills and get a taste of what it is like to study at undergraduate level.
What are the strengths of the programme?
For me, one of the greatest strengths of the programme is the instructors’ team. Over the last three years we have recruited over 40 instructors from 18 top universities worldwide. These institutions have included top institutions in Wales, the UK, Europe, the US and Asia. The institutions that our instructors have represented are:
- Cardiff University
- Durham University
- King’s College London
- Queen’s University Belfast
- Swansea University
- University of Birmingham
- University of Cambridge
- University of Manchester
- University of Oxford
- University of St Andrews
- École Normale Supérieure, Paris
- IE University, Madrid
- Boston College
- Northeastern University
- St John’s College, Annapolis
- University of Florida
- Yale-NUS, Singapore
The wide variety of institutions, academic foci and student experiences showcased and shared by our instructor team means that Wales’ brightest learners are exposed to future paths that they may have never considered before. Attending the programme encourages learners to consider studying internationally, to find what really excites their academic passion and even what careers they may want to pursue after their undergraduate studies.
As one participant in 2022 said: ‘Most of the lectures were so interesting and unique that I probably wouldn’t have heard about these topics if I didn’t attend the Summer School.’
It is also a great way for learners to learn independently, which will prepare them for studying at university. Some sessions are available to watch on-demand, which gives learners the flexibility to balance attending the summer school with their wider commitments.
How to get involved in 2023
If you would like to know more about this opportunity, or if you are interested in getting involved, please get in touch with Lois Williams (Senior Associate for Higher Education) or Rebecca Martin (Senior Associate for International Partnerships) for more information.
If you think you would be a great fit to the summer school team, we would love to hear from you. We are receiving applications for instructors until 5pm on 31st March 2023.