The 2019-20 Academic Year has been truly unprecedented, with the effects of Covid-19 affecting teaching, examinations and graduations here at Robinson. This has been no different for the admissions team, and despite restrictions on face-to-face outreach this year, we have been working hard to ensure students from disadvantaged backgrounds are supported and encouraged to apply to Robinson and Cambridge. Whilst the year has brought significant challenges, the College has also explored ways in which we can expand our outreach programme virtually, to ensure we can continue to engage with students from across the country, regardless of circumstance or background.

The year began as normal, with the Schools’ Liaison and Outreach Officer regularly visiting our ‘link’ areas (Swindon, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Wandsworth), to speak to students about Higher Education and Oxbridge. In Michaelmas 2019, the SLO visited 17 schools to give Year 13 applicants interview workshops, helping students to feel more confident with their application preparations. As well as Year 13 students, the SLO also speaks to students in younger year groups to encourage them to start thinking about their aspirations from an earlier age, and to inform of them of the GCSE and A-Level choices most suitable for entry to competitive University courses.

Robinson also held a number of events in College this year, allowing young people to talk to current undergraduates, view College facilities and get a taste of University life. As well as hosting 11 schools from West London in September, Robinson also welcomed three Brilliant Club visits. As part of this, the SLO gives an Information and Guidance talk, students take part in academic sessions with supervisors and then get the chance to interact with current Robinson students on tours of College facilities. Robinson also hosted the Naz Legacy Foundation Diversity Day in Lent Term, which saw 60 students from state schools across London visit the College to learn more about student life, A-Level choices, and the opportunities that a degree from Cambridge can provide. We also work to support faculty outreach initiatives, and throughout Michaelmas and Lent terms provided College tours and Q+A sessions for MML and Classics taster days. In Lent, we also held Subject Masterclasses in 12 subjects, giving students in Lower Sixth (Year 12) the chance to experience sample lectures and supervisions. 150 students attended the Masterclass events, all of whom were from state schools and sixth forms across the country.

Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic caused significant disruption and unfortunately all face-to-face events were cancelled from March onwards. In response to restrictions surrounding in-person outreach activities, several online sessions were held in July, meaning that our Admissions team were still able to host subject taster sessions and Q+A events virtually. In total, Robinson engaged with over 300 students virtually in June and July, by holding a live Open Day Q+A with the Admissions Tutors and current students, seven subject-specific information webinars, and online talks for six schools in our link areas.

Despite the unforeseen changes that occurred to our outreach programme this year, and thanks to the efforts of staff, Fellows and current undergraduates, the College has been able to run informative workshops and webinars for students from across the country, and we remain driven in our efforts to give all applicants, regardless of background, all the information and guidance they need to feel confident in making applications to Robinson. Whatever the next year brings, we will continue to use a blend of online and in-person outreach to engage with as many young people as possible.