Why UNIQ summer school?

Hannah Judge went to her local comprehensive in Ilfracombe, North Devon, before attending St Hilda’s College to study History. In the 2013, Hannah attended UNIQ, Oxford’s official summer school. In 2016 and 2017 Hannah returned to UNIQ to be an academic mentor for the school.


Hannah at her graduation

Hannah at her graduation

In 2013 I was lucky enough to attend the UNIQ summer school as a mentee on their history programme. UNIQ is a summer school that Oxford runs to target students from under-represented backgrounds in the UK, and to encourage them to apply to the university. The summer school is free to attend and includes a week-long academic programme made up of history lectures, discussion groups and an Oxford-style tutorial, as well as admission workshops and social events. Before my week on UNIQ, studying at Oxford wasn’t something I had given much thought to, and I applied to the summer school mainly to keep my history teacher happy. I was so glad I did however, as my experience on UNIQ became the main motivating factor in my decision to apply to study history at Oxford.

For me, the most important aspect of UNIQ has absolutely been the community it has introduced me to. Whilst it is certainly true that by participating on UNIQ, you get invaluable advice and guidance on the admissions process, and are stretched and challenged with regards to your interest in history, there is also a big focus on the social side of things.  From ice-breakers on the day you arrive at your host college, to the social events that run every evening, to the free time you are given to explore the city with your new friends, the summer school is designed to help you form quick and comfortable friendships with the other participants. This is easily done because from the very beginning there is a sense of familiarity with the other participants; everyone comes from similar backgrounds, shares similar experiences and has a similar outlook. On UNIQ I made friendships that lasted well beyond the week-long summer school. In particular, the friends I made were a big source of support during the Oxford interviews, which despite the preparation I had been given, I still found to be difficult and daunting. Meeting with my UNIQ friends in the evenings reminded me why I was applying.

Hannah Judge at UNIQ

Hannah Judge at UNIQ

Once I had been accepted into Oxford, I knew that I wanted to be involved in UNIQ. In 2016 and 2017 I was able to return to the summer schools, this time as a mentor. My mentor was a big reason why I applied, and so I wanted to help other students in the way that he had helped me. I really loved getting to work with students who had been in my position a few years previously. I recognised their uncertainty and lack of confidence and worked hard to show them that they had what it took to get accepted by Oxford, and was able to dispel some common myths and misconceptions about student life at the university.

The other mentors I worked with over the two years are some of my favourite people I have met at Oxford. Here, there is also a sense of community, despite the fact that mentors come from across all year groups, colleges and subjects.   Everyone I met working on UNIQ was so friendly, and there was such a lovely and welcoming atmosphere during both weeks. Everyone genuinely wanted to see their mentees succeed, but most of all enjoy themselves. I really feel that UNIQ represents Oxford’s history undergraduates at their very best.

Each UNIQ course ends with a little awards ceremony for its participants. When I sat at the ceremony for the last year of UNIQ that I mentored on, watching my history mentees go up to accept their award, it felt like I had come full circle. UNIQ was my first taste of what studying history at Oxford could be like, and it also formed the final part of my undergraduate experience. Without hesitation, I can say that UNIQ has been one of the real highlights of my time at Oxford.


Find out more 

To find out more about the UNIQ summer school, visit their website. Detailed information on the history courses, eligibility, and support on how to apply can be found here.  The deadline for applying is normally in late January.

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