Discover some of the best summer schools for UK Year 12 students.
Summer Schools in medicine, engineering, pre-University and free courses for A-Level students join an array of sports and creative opportunities.
This article also covers the programmes run by the Sutton Trust, Oxford UNIQ, Durham Supported Progression and Target Oxbridge.
You can learn even more about the courses, events and masterclasses at Oxford and Cambridge universities on our Oxbridge page.
- Summer Schools Around The UK
- UK STEM And Engineering Summer Schools For UK Year 12 Students
- UK Medicine Summer Schools For A-Level Students
- UK Finance And Law Summer Schools And Work Experience
- UK Music And Drama Summer Schools
- UK Sports And Outdoor Pursuits Summer Schools
- Food Science Summer Schools
- Summer Schools For A Range Of Year 12s
- UK Summer Schools For State School Year 12s
- UK Widening Participation Summer Schools For State School Year 12s
- Year 12s From Modest Backgrounds
- Sutton Trust UK Summer Schools
- Sutton Trust US Programme
- Oxford UNIQ
- Potential Oxbridge Candidates
- The Durham University Supported Progression Programme
- Pathways to Birmingham
- Lancaster Access Programme
- Target Oxbridge
Summer Schools Around The UK
University summer schools for Year 12 students offer a chance to experience a university and a particular subject to see if it’s a good fit for you. A lot of young filmmakers are sixth form students hoping to go to university, so we hear a lot about them.
Each course has its own eligibility criteria. Many limit their intake to state school pupils whilst others are happy to accept applications from everyone, including international students. Some courses are very competitive, and some levy a fee. Therefore, you need to do a lot of research to find the ones suitable for you.
But there is a wide range of other summer courses that develop creative and academic interests. They usually charge a fee and the admission criteria will vary enormously.
Whether they give you more subject knowledge, develop your softer skills or enhance your independent living skills, these courses are a real advantage on your UCAS Application Form. In conclusion, apply if you meet the eligibility and can afford the cost.
UK STEM And Engineering Summer Schools For UK Year 12 Students
- Headstart Courses run by the Engineering Development Trust (EDT)
- Imperial College London Year 12 Engineering Summer School (State schools only)
- University of Southampton Marine Headstart (EDT)
- The Space Careers website contains a huge list of scientific courses
- Further Maths Support Programme
- Smallpeice Trust Momentum Courses
- United Kingdom Mathematics Trust (UKMT)
- Isaac Physics Workshops
- University of Southampton Design Triathlon (Widening Participation)
- Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton
- Biomedical Electronic Engineering at University of Southampton
- Reece Foundation – difficult website to navigate, but there appear to be scholarships
- Arkwright Engineering Scholarships – but must be applied for in Year 11
If you are in a state school, also take a look at the Sutton Trust and Widening Participation courses listed at the end of this article.
Between 2004 and 2019, students taking Maths and Physics A-Level tool part in the University of Birmingham Physics Residential Summer School. It seems to have stopped, although the university does offer other summer school opportunities.
UK Medicine Summer Schools For A-Level Students
- North West Medical Year 12 Summer School
- Medic Mentor
- Debate Chamber Summer Schools
If you attend a state school, also take a look at the Sutton Trust and Widening Participation courses listed in this article. For example, Oxford UNIQ offers both Medicine and Oncology courses.
UK Finance And Law Summer Schools And Work Experience
- Debate Chamber Summer Schools
- BDO Work Experience Summer School
- University of Cambridge Sixth Form Law Conference (usually just before Easter)
- EY Smart Futures (State School Only)
- EY Business Academy (If you are considering an Apprenticeship)
- JP Morgan Aspiring Professionals Program
- JP Morgan Bournemouth Think Ahead Program
- JP Morgan Bournemouth Work Experience Programme
- HSBC UK Work Experience Programme
- Morgan Stanley Step In Step Up (Year 12 and Year 13 Females)
- Nomura First Steps (For Year 13)
- Credit Suisse Steps To Success (Year 13 – Underprivileged and Underrepresented Background)
If you attend a state school, also take a look at the Sutton Trust and Widening Participation courses listed in this article.
UK Music And Drama Summer Schools
- The Rodolfus Foundation Choral Courses (previously known as The Eton Choral Courses)
- The Purcell School Of Music Summer School for Young Composers
- National Youth Theatre
- National Youth Music Theatre
- Folkworks Youth Summer School
- Royal Conservatoire Of Scotland – Music, Drama, Dance, Film, Production
- London Film Academy Summer Course
- Act2Cam Summer Film Camps
- Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) runs several short courses
If you attend a state school, also take a look at the Sutton Trust and Widening Participation courses listed in this article.
For those considering an acting career, you must train throughout the year. Take a look at our list of youth theatres around the UK to find one in your area. Applicants to drama school probably have the most competition of any other degree. However, you may find our article about drama schools in the UK a useful starting point.
UK Sports And Outdoor Pursuits Summer Schools
The first two providers listed here offer a wide range of courses, including those aimed specifically to help you achieve your Duke of Edinburgh Award.
- The Outward Bound Trust
- Field Studies Council
- Soccer Camps International: English Soccer Camps
- Eton College Rowing Instructional Courses
Food Science Summer Schools
- Food and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Reading – Summer Course For 6th Form Students
- University of Nottingham – Summer School in Food and Crop Sciences
- University of Leeds School of Food Science and Nutrition Summer School
- Harper Adams University Food Science Summer School
- Cardiff Metropolitan University – IDG Food Science Summer School
Summer Schools For A Range Of Year 12s
- Pathways To Property; Henley Business School & University of Reading
- Edge Hill University Year 12 Summer Residential
- University of East Anglia Post-16 Summer Schools
- London Metropolitan University Summer School
- University of Teesside Summer School Residential
- King’s College London Pre-University Summer School
UK Summer Schools For State School Year 12s
Widening participation courses are usually free. If you meet the criteria to attend a Sutton Trust Summer School, chances are you will also meet the criteria for the rest of these courses. Moreover, there is nothing to stop you applying to, and attending (subject to dates), all of them as long as you meet the criteria.
But why aren’t they all part of the Sutton Trust Summer School scheme? Perhaps with a coherent website to specify a choice of 3 universities? After all, these courses are all aimed at young people who do not know their way around the UK Higher Education system. And instead, they are confronted by a bewildering range of sources and application forms to contend with.
Even within an individual university, there may be several widening participation schemes offered. Never accept one easy Google search result; keep researching. For example, our search in 2019 found that the widening participation scheme for the University of Oxford listed six of their programmes but didn’t include the Lady Margaret Hall Foundation Year.
But if you achieved excellent GCSE results and attend a state school, yet you don’t meet the widening participation criteria, you do have a few interesting options. So, for example, take a look at the Eton College Universities Summer School and the Sutton Trust US Programme.
Depending on where you live and your exam results, you might win a place on the Oxford UNIQ summer school programme.
UK Widening Participation Summer Schools For State School Year 12s
This is not a comprehensive list but will get you started. To apply for these courses, you must attend a state-maintained school.
Further eligibility criteria apply, therefore most state school pupils will not be successful unless they are from an under-represented background.
The University of Bath Year 12 Summer School (Widening Participation)
University of Bedfordshire Summer School (Years 11, 12 & 13) and Student Shadowing
The University of Birmingham Academic Enrichment Programme (Greater West Midlands residents)
The University of Cumbria (Lancaster Campus) Summer University (Widening Participation)
Supported Progression At Durham University (For Students Living in the North East, Yorkshire & Cumbria)
Imperial College London Year 12 Engineering Summer School
Imperial College London Non-Residential Work Experience Programme
Lancaster University Summer Schools (Widening Participation)
Bitesize uni at Newcastle University
Nottingham Potential Summer Course (For Students Living In The Midlands)
Oxford UNIQ (see section below)
Oxford Brookes Animal Behaviour & Welfare Summer School (Local Area Residents Only)
Equine Science at Oxford Brookes (Partner School Students Only)
Queen Mary University Of London (Widening Participation)
Royal Holloway University of London (Widening Participation)
Selwyn College (Cambridge) Year 12 Summer School
SOAS (School of Oriental & African Studies) University of London (Widening Participation)
University of Southampton Design Triathlon (Widening Participation)
Summer Schools @ St George’s University of London (Widening Participation)
University of Surrey Residential Summer Schools (Widening Participation)
Swansea University Summer University
Experience Warwick Year 12 Summer School
University College London (UCL)
University of York (Widening Participation)
And don’t forget to google your local university. Moreover, see if they have something interesting buried in a department subsection.
Year 12s From Modest Backgrounds
Because each university is targeting their access funds to chasing the same cohort as the other universities, opportunities for students who are not from disadvantaged backgrounds are very limited. (Even working families living in poverty seldom qualify for Free School Meals yet that’s often one of the eligibility criteria).
Meanwhile, summer schools run by private companies or where applications are based only on GCSE results have prohibitive fees for the average family.
Consequently, a student living in a modest postcode, whose less than average income working parents received degrees from universities outside the Russell Group, would genuinely find it hard to access most courses.
They may not have experience in engineering, computer science or the other industries who complain about significant skills shortages. Even very bright students may be reluctant to apply for a degree course without understanding what is involved or how well they are suited to it. The few courses they may qualify for, such as the Headstart courses, are consequently heavily oversubscribed.
And so we end up with a nation where Business and Administrative Studies degrees, followed by Creative Arts and Design degrees, are the most popular. That’s not to undermine these degrees in any way – after all, the creators of this site work in the creative industries. But we have a critical national skills shortage in key STEM industries. Young people seldom like the unknown; producing leaflets and websites with a few bullet points about a career will not help them discover whether a degree in a new subject is for them.
For trying to fill this important gap, the Smallpeice Trust Momentum Courses deserve particular praise. You will get charged a fee to attend the residential courses at UK universities, but it is affordable for most families. The applications just require you to be studying appropriate subjects and to complete a simple application form before the places fill up.
Similarly, the IGD Food Science summer schools held at the five universities detailed above is trying to fill the experience gap. Very few schools talk about the well-paid careers available in the UK’s massive food and beverage industry. The Institute for Grocery Distribution’s funding, therefore, means potential students can try out the subject under university conditions, without an application lottery or prohibitive fees.
Sutton Trust UK Summer Schools
The Sutton Trust Summer Schools offer Year 12 students the chance to get an insight into UK University life and study. Courses at Cambridge, St.Andrew’s and Bristol are just some of the options available. We take a look at the eligibility and application process.
Lots of Choice With The Sutton Trust UK Summer Schools
Eleven UK universities offer Summer School courses coordinated by the Sutton Trust. There are no attendance or residential fees to pay. Between them, more than 40 subjects are on offer.
You can find out more on the Sutton Trust website.
Who Can Apply For A Sutton Trust UK Summer School Course?
Applications are only be accepted for a Sutton Trust UK Summer School course if you are in the correct year group and you have ALWAYS attended a state school. So if you don’t meet those criteria, don’t apply.
Competition for each place is fierce. In 2017, the Sutton Trust received more than 11,000 applications for Summer School places.
The purpose of these courses is to encourage university applications from state school pupils with barriers to university aspiration. Therefore, the selection process considers a number of additional criteria. An applicant receives preference if they:
- Will be the first in the family to go to university
- Were eligible for Free School Meals at any time
- Attend a school with below average A-Level grades or low progression to University
- Live in a postcode of socio-economic deprivation or low university attendance
- Achieved at least 5 or 6 A grades (Level 7, 8 or 9) at GCSE
Were you in care, looked after or accommodated during your childhood? You will be accepted as long as you are in the correct year group and achieved at least 5 or 6 A grades (Level 7, 8 or 9) at GCSE.
For everyone else, the more additional criteria you meet, the greater your chances of being given a place.
When Do You Apply For The Sutton Trust UK Summer School?
Applications usually open early January and close early March. Your teacher has to give a reference. Universities contact each applicant with their decision in early May.
Sutton Trust US Programme
The Sutton Trust US Programme is offered in conjunction with the Fulbright Commission. It could help you gain a place at a top US university, also with scholarships to make the finances work for you.
A Trip To Top US Universities
This is a highly competitive programme which mentors successful applicants through the process of applying for US universities.
It includes a summer school visiting top US universities. You can find more information on the official website.
Who Can Apply For The Sutton Trust US Programme?
To be eligible to apply applicants must:
- Currently be in Year 12 or equivalent (eg S5 in Scotland, Year 13 in Northern Ireland)
- Attend a state school or college
- Not hold US citizenship
- Be from a low-income family (generally, this will mean a household earning £45,000 or less)
The income barrier may seem unfairly low. But US Financial Aid packages strictly limit household income and wealth before support falls away. And top university degrees in the US cost considerably more than in the UK so most UK applicants would need the Financial Aid package.
Bearing in mind that acceptance onto this programme means you will be taking ACT and SAT exams. The university application process includes essays, detailed application forms, and a video, which take a considerable amount of time to prepare. This is in addition to your A-Level studies and any part-time jobs or volunteering you are already doing. Therefore, applicants should be well qualified:
- England and Northern Ireland: Have achieved at least eight GCSEs at grade A or 7 or above
- Wales: Have achieved at least eight GCSEs at grade A or above
- Scotland: Have achieved at least six B passes at National 5 or above
Your application also needs to show your commitment to the programme, along with an interest in US culture and higher education. After all, the purpose of the programme is to support you as you apply to top degree programmes in the US.
One of the teaching staff at your school must provide a reference. It needs to be a good one, reflecting the strong reference top US universities want to see when you apply for their degree programmes.
The Application Form Takes A Lot Of Time And Planning
Applications open in November and you should start working on yours promptly. The application form reflects the US Common Application Form and Financial Aid Forms used for university entry in the US. Therefore it is long and complicated. Several short essays form part of the process. You also need to produce a short film introducing yourself. You may need to keep chasing your school reference. This is an application which will take time, effort and organisation. Only about a third of people who start an application will complete and submit it by the mid-January deadline.
The selection panel reviews each application carefully, taking into account what US universities look for. They look at academic performance and potential; extracurricular involvement, including school and community activities, work experience, paid work and other interests; and character, including evidence of leadership, service, work ethic, enthusiasm, and drive to succeed.
In late February or early March, about 10% of applicants are invited to a London finalists’ residential weekend in April. By May the final decisions are made as to who has been accepted into the programme.
Oxford UNIQ summer school is a highly competitive UK summer school for UK state school pupils.
Offering a wide range of subjects in the prestigious Oxford University colleges, this summer school might change your future.
Other Oxbridge Events
The Oxbridge UNIQ summer school is just one of an extensive range of opportunities for teenagers thinking about studying at Oxford and Cambridge.
The Oxbridge college system operates differently to other universities, and your choice of college can affect your chances of entry. The exams and the very particular UCAS personal statement required are rarely well understood by state school teachers.
Also, state school pupils may an impression of these colleges ‘not being for people like us’.
Yet they offer outstanding levels of education and experience, and students from low to moderate income households are eligible to surprising levels of financial support.
So don’t forget to check this page:
Who Can Make An Oxford UNIQ Summer School Application?
Young people arriving from private schools have traditionally dominated the Oxford University student body. The university has been making great strides over the past few years to improve access to bright state-educated pupils.
In case anyone thinks this has become unfair for the independent schools, though, it’s worth looking at the data. 7% of the UK’s children attend independent schools, yet they still receive just over 40% of the places at Oxford University. At some of the colleges, the percentage is even higher.
The Oxbridge application process involves exams and requires the UCAS personal statement to be written in a very particular style. Many state schools don’t have teachers who understand what these processes demand.
The UNIQ Summer School programme aims to encourage degree course applications from academically gifted state school pupils.
In addition to showcasing the application process in depth, the programme given students the chance to asses whether an elite university is right for them, and to explore subjects that they may not have considered before.
Who Gets Chosen For The Oxford UNIQ Courses?
The selection process takes account of the following criteria:
- GCSEs grades should be 7, 8 or 9s
- The Acorn code for your postcode, generalising the type of residents living there
- The Polar code for your postcode, identifying the trend for university progression there
Be careful to craft a good personal statement. This is not easy to do with a very limited number of words. Moreover, you should identify any extenuating circumstances or barriers to attainment. Ask for help at school if you need to. The advice of an adult who has attended a university may make a crucial difference to your application.
Your Chance Of Acceptance
Every course will receive many applications for each place; but some more than others. If you see UNIQ encouragement to look at an unusual course, do consider it. If it is related to an area of study you are interested in, you may have a better chance of being accepted than for a mainstream subject. And this experience will widen your knowledge; furthermore, it will give you an opportunity to explore a new academic subject that might become the degree choice for you.
Want To Know More About The Oxford UNIQ Summer Schools?
The Oxford UNIQ website includes a lot of information about subjects, deadlines and the application process.
The Durham University Supported Progression Programme
The Durham University Supported Progression programme is more than just a Summer School. It helps students from eligible families in the North East, Yorkshire and Cumbria break through their barriers to university education.
It’s a structured two-year programme of events and information. Furthermore, the programme includes a two-night residential event and a five-night residential summer school. It is strictly for Year 12 state school pupils who live in the North East, Cumbria or Yorkshire.
If you successfully complete the programme and complete the assessed summer school project to a required standard, during Year 13 you will receive a guaranteed, conditional offer for that course at Durham University. On taking that place up, you will also be in line for a bursary for the life of your first degree. In September 2018 the bursary is £2,000 per annum.
Applying For Durham University Supported Progression
There is a lot of competition for places. Therefore, preference is given to applicants who meet all or most of these criteria:
- will be the first generation in their family to attend university
- have achieved at least 5 As or A*s at GCSE (7-9 for English and Maths) or equivalent (including a strong level of achievement at GCSE for relevant subjects).
- attend schools or colleges with a low overall GCSE; and/or A-Level, Higher/Advanced Higher (or equivalent) point score and/or schools or colleges with low progression rates to higher education
- come from a neighbourhood with low overall progression rates to higher education; or high levels of socio-economic deprivation
- Applications from under-represented black and minority ethnic applicants are welcome
Applications normally open early in the autumn term of Year 12. They close in late November. Do not miss the deadline because late applications are not accepted. So many applications come in, Durham University could fill its Supported Progression places several times over. The University will inform applicants of their decision at the beginning of January.
Find Out More
If you meet at least the essential criteria and would like to know more about the programme, take a look at the official website.
Pathways to Birmingham
The Pathways to Birmingham programme is offered to
- Students in Years 12 and 13
- Open only to Greater West Midlands pupils, with the exception of the National Access Summer School which is available to pupils in England and Wales (excluding the West Midlands)
If you successfully complete a Pathways to Birmingham programme, and apply to the University of Birmingham through UCAS:
- You’ll get special consideration from admissions tutors
- If you receive an offer, you’ll get the standard offer PLUS a Pathways to Birmingham offer, usually two grades below the standard offer in the prospectus
- You may be eligible for the Pathways to Birmingham financial support
Lancaster Access Programme
Participants on the Access Programme receive:
- Workshops, masterclasses, residential opportunities, and application support
- Extra consideration and a lower offer on application to Lancaster
- Access to a dedicated online portal and resources
- Opportunity to participate in a variety of activities and events
- Dedicated contact with Lancaster staff and student ambassadors
- Extra support when you enroll as a degree student at Lancaster
Target Oxbridge is a support programme for bright black African and Caribbean students and students of mixed race with black African and Caribbean heritage. These students are currently under-represented at Oxford and Cambridge universities.
Who Can Apply For Target Oxbridge?
Target Oxbridge is a free support programme. Launched in 2012, it aims to increase Oxbridge access for a significantly under-represented group of students whose academic achievements should not hold them back.
To apply, you need to be in Year 12 and have achieved at least 5 GCSEs at 7, 8 or 9. Your written skills, your ability to communicate ideas clearly and, most importantly, your motivation and passion for achieving your goals will also be an important part of the selection process.
You will complete an online application form, a telephone interview, a short written exercise and a face-to-face interview. These steps identify the most suitable applicants. If you are one of them, you will be offered a place on the programme. You will then be supported and mentored through the highly competitive application process for Oxford or Cambridge University. (The UK university admissions process means you can only apply to one of these prestigious institutions).
For more information about the programme, visit the official website for Target Oxbridge.
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