#NoLimits is the theme of the 2019 Spring and Summer residential programme run by UNIQ, who ran the first week of the programme between 7-11th April, and it was an apt decision as that was the main message that was conveyed to students who previously may not have considered an application to Oxbridge. UNIQ is only open to students studying in their first year of A-levels or equivalent, who are based at UK state schools/colleges. Students who may have seen Oxford as beyond the limits of what they are capable of.

The best way to learn about the Oxford experience is to be fully immersed in it. UNIQ is designed to help students fully engage in life at Oxford University by taking them behind the college gates. On the UNIQ Spring or Summer school, you stay in an Oxford college for five days, attend an academic programme during the day and take part in social activities in the evenings. I was lucky enough to stay in the beautiful surroundings of Merton College, the home of TS Eliot when he was at Oxford. We were also able to explore various colleges when going for dinner or workshops, giving us a true sense of what living at Oxford is like.

During UNIQ, we were taught by Oxford academics, attended lectures, seminars and labs, and used departmental facilities, like a real undergraduate! I took part in the History Order and Freedom course which focused on revolutions throughout time, including the English Civil War, French, American, and Russian Revolution, and fascism in Italy and Germany. The lectures were given by Professor Marc Mulholland, a renowned professor at St Catherine’s College and author of numerous books on the subject of revolution and politics, particularly in reference to Irish history. The lectures were extremely engaging and thought provoking and the students were able to discuss their thoughts after each one in smaller groups with a PhD historian and an undergraduate student. In addition to lectures, students may prepare some independent work for a tutorial at the end of the week where you will go through the topic in detail, either individually with a tutor or in a small group. We were asked to produce a short essay and given the opportunity to research aspects of the lectures further in the world-famous Bodleian Library, which definitely inspired everyone to try their hardest. The UNIQ academic programmes are demanding, but they are also fun as we looked at our favourite subject in new and engaging ways. The course gave a real insight into studying a history degree at Oxford.

Throughout our time, we met many undergraduate student ambassadors, university tutors and professors, who offered guidance and answered all our questions. Many of the ambassadors had taken part in UNIQ themselves and agreed that it was an amazing opportunity without which they may not have applied to Oxford University. There were also numerous dedicated sessions to how to apply, including personal statement and interview workshops. All this guidance was invaluable, especially because we were all from state schools and perhaps would not be able to get this information elsewhere. Outside of the academic timetable there was free time and opportunities to take part in a range of social activities. This included a city-wide scavenger hunt, making a video with our groups, college tours, and at the end of the week, a celebration party!

Overall the experience was unforgettable.Although we were not at Oxford for long we made some great, like-minded  friends, got a first-hand experience of life at university, and gained a deeper understanding of a subject that interests you. I would certainly recommend the experience to anyone looking to apply to a top university but isn’t sure of whether they would fit in, or doesn’t know how to apply, or simply wants to see whether studying a certain subject at degree-level is for them. UNIQ is an excellent opportunity and sends an important message about making the best universities accessible to everyone with potential regardless of their background.