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Magdalene Students and Fellows at the Magdalene Merseyside event

From Merseyside to Magdalene

Over 350 Year 10 and 11 students from 30 schools attended the biennial Liverpool Event.

Magdalene College held its biennial Liverpool Event on Monday 20th March 2023. The event, previously hosted at Goodison Park and the Museum of Liverpool, moved to the fantastic Merseyside Maritime Museum on the Royal Albert Dock for the first time.

Over 350 Year 10 and 11 students from 30 schools in Merseyside and North Wales attended this year’s event. Magdalene has worked closely with schools in Merseyside and North Wales for many years, as a result of the University’s Area Links Scheme. The scheme allows Colleges to develop meaningful and long-standing relationships with schools in a particular area, and support their students based on an understanding of their unique educational environments.

Attendees were welcomed by Dr Sergio Bacallado (Admissions Tutor for Outreach and Fellow in Mathematics) who provided an introduction to Magdalene College and the University of Cambridge. Students and teachers experienced two taster lectures relating to courses offered at Cambridge: Professor Tom Licence (Senior Research Fellow, History) spoke on ‘1066: One Year, Four Kings’ to introduce students to the topic of the Norman Conquest; and Professor Cecilia Brassett (Director of Studies, Medicine) taught students key anatomical terminology with the help of several keen volunteers from the audience.

Professor Cecilia Brassett teaching anatomy, featuring some volunteers from the audience.

Professor Cecilia Brassett teaching anatomy, featuring some volunteers from the audience.

Current Magdalene students from Merseyside and North Wales, several of whom attended the Liverpool Event in 2019, led a Q&A session entitled ‘From Merseyside to Magdalene’. Topics included alleviating nervousness surrounding moving away from home; affording university amidst the rising cost of living; and balancing sports, music, societies, and other commitments alongside their academic studies.

For the final session of the day, the school groups moved to a roundtable discussion during which students and teachers could ask questions of the staff, fellows, and student helpers in attendance. Dr Sergio Bacallado discussed sample interview questions with some keen mathematicians; Natalie Thompson (Schools Liaison Officer) answered questions on A Level subject choices; and the Magdalene student helpers provided an insight into their experiences of the Cambridge application process.

Professor Tom Licence lecturing on ‘1066: One Year, Four Kings’

Professor Tom Licence lecturing on ‘1066: One Year, Four Kings’.

Feedback from attendees has been overwhelmingly positive, with many expressing a clear interest in aspiring towards competitive universities such as Cambridge in the future. Teachers spoke particularly highly of the Magdalene student helpers, commenting that their pupils appreciated the opportunity to hear from students from their local area and understand that Cambridge is an achievable option for them.

Dr Sergio Bacallado, Admissions Tutor for Outreach and Fellow in Mathematics said:

"I am thrilled with the success of our biannual Liverpool event, where we had the opportunity to connect with over 350 bright and talented young minds from across Merseyside and North Wales. I am proud to continue our tradition of building relationships with communities in the North West face-to-face and fostering a diverse and inclusive student body at Magdalene College.

I was reminded of how important it is for aspiring students to see themselves reflected in our current student body. We can be proud to say that several of our student ambassadors who volunteered at the event hail from the same area and attended this very event as Year 10 students a few years ago. We hope that their inspiring stories have motivated a new generation to pursue their dreams and know that they too can achieve anything they set their minds to."

Magdalene student helpers.

Magdalene student helpers from left to right: Achudha (Chemical Engineering, 2021); Elin (Engineering, 2019); Charlotte (Law, 2019); Avesta-Saule (Classics, 2020); Jacob (Medicine, 2022); Melissa (Medicine, 2022).

Charlotte, third-year Law student at Magdalene said:

“Until attending the Liverpool Event myself several years ago, I was adamant that I would never apply to study at Cambridge. Having attended a school which had never sent anyone to Cambridge and only a handful to Oxford, alongside coming from a family where nobody had attended university, my exposure to these world-famous institutions and the people within them was non-existent, fuelling many presumptions and preconceptions which dissuaded me from applying. In particular, I thought that Cambridge would be filled with posh, private school geniuses who did nothing but study, drink wine and ski. Hearing from Magdalene’s student volunteers during the event helped me to realise that these stereotypes were (mostly) untrue and is ultimately what persuaded me to apply here.

Unsurprisingly, when I was offered the opportunity to attend the event several years later, this time as a volunteer rather than an attendee, I was incredibly excited to be a part of something which helped others to break down the same barriers which had once stood in my way.

From the moment the schools arrived, it was clear it was going to be an incredibly rewarding day. The students were chatty and excited, and not just because they had the day off school. After a short introductory presentation, the students had the opportunity to attend history and medicine lectures delivered by Magdalene fellows, Professor Tom Licence and Professor Cecilia Brassett, giving them a useful taste of what Cambridge lectures are like. Later, the students heard about the different journeys which I and the other student volunteers had been on – literally and metaphorically - since moving from Merseyside to Magdalene, touching on many different issues such as finances, friendships and homesickness. Whilst many students asked questions such as about the interview process during this session, it was during the roundtable discussions later in the day that they really began to share their questions and, most importantly, their concerns about the application process and beyond. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of those concerns were the same as those which I had experienced just a few years earlier, including that their backgrounds would be an obstacle in becoming, and ultimately enjoying life as, Cambridge students. By sharing more about our own, overwhelmingly positive experiences and the infinitely more objective admissions data, the other volunteers and I were able to help many students to set those concerns aside, helping them to begin envisioning themselves as the next generation of Oxbridge students. Whilst it is too soon to tell how many of the attending students will apply to Cambridge, or how many of those who do apply will do so successfully, what is clear is that the attendees left the event with a more positive and realistic perception of Cambridge and the students within, bringing them one step closer to realising their potential.”

We would like to thank all the Fellows and Magdalene students that were involved in such a successful day, and for their continued support for all of Magdalene’s outreach programmes.

By Miss Natalie Thompson, Schools Liaison Officer