Simply the best

Nearly half of all university students come from colleges rather than schools. Amy McLellan reveals why

The now-traditional summer conflagration over A-level results and exam standards often overshadows the achievements that pupils at further education colleges are making year after year (see John Brennan's comment, left). According to the Association of Colleges, some two-thirds of young people go to college for their 16-18 education, and nearly half of all students going to university will do so from local colleges.

The now-traditional summer conflagration over A-level results and exam standards often overshadows the achievements that pupils at further education colleges are making year after year (see John Brennan's comment, left). According to the Association of Colleges, some two-thirds of young people go to college for their 16-18 education, and nearly half of all students going to university will do so from local colleges.

"College is a halfway-house between school and university," observes Ann West, director of general education at Lewisham College. "At school you are still in quite a small pond, but here there are 16,000 students and you are in the adult world."

Many students relish the opportunity to make a fresh start at college. "Students get histories at schools that stay attached to them," says Sharon Marriott of Bradford College, the fourth largest FE college in the country. "But they come to us with a completely blank sheet and a lot of them say that makes a big difference."

The level of support, be it academic or pastoral, can also exceed the capability of most schools. The range of A-levels on offer is usually extensive.

"The huge popularity of psychology A-level, for example, would be well catered for in a college environment," says the AOC's Rosemary Clark. "And the economies of scale mean colleges can offer a very large learning resource plus careers guidance, counselling and accommodation advice."

Further education colleges are also well-equipped to push their very brightest students to make the most of their potential. Lewisham offers weekly tutorials - one-to-one sessions where students can raise personal or academic issues, and tutorials designed to provide the skills to succeed at university.

"We also have an enrichment programme to give them something extra," says West. "We've an academy of finance, for example - students can do a six-week internship in the City."

Victoria Ossadtchi applied to the LSE to study law after taking a Lewisham study week at the university. Last month she got A grades in law, sociology and Russian plus two As at AS Level. The achievement was all the more notable given that four years ago Victoria moved to the UK from Russia, unable to speak English.

Donald Ewas Makon also had to play catch-up with his English skills after he moved to the UK from French-speaking Cameroon. "Usually people take a year to study English but I went straight into studying a proper course," says Donald. "It was very difficult, a nightmare actually. I would spend nights working at my computer."

Donald more than rose to the challenge, however, and has secured ABB in maths, physics and chemistry at A-level. His achievement is more astounding considering that the 18-year-old lives on his own and works full-time, currently at Tesco.

"I'm applying to Cambridge next month," he says. "My teacher thought I could make it and raised my confidence." But Donald must wait a year because, with only two years' residence in the UK, he doesn't yet qualify for a student loan. Marie Cawley, from Stoke on Trent College, has also beaten the odds to achieve her goals. She got three As at A-level in biology, chemistry and maths, winning a place to study medicine at Keele University, despite having her schooling severely disrupted. A debilitating hip condition means Marie has been in and out of hospital for surgery from the age of 10, and still undergoes a rigorous daily physiotherapy regime.

"The college has been very supportive," she says. "If I've had to miss a day then they've been very helpful about catching up with the work."



'OXBRIDGE IS NOT UNATTAINABLE'

Bradford College student Richard Killip starts his degree in land economy at Queens' College, Cambridge this October. Richard, who secured A grades in A-level business studies and English, C in ICT A-Level and A in AS geography, is the first from his family to attend university. This achievement was aided in no small measure by his teachers at Bradford.

"The first time I ever thought about going to Oxford or Cambridge was when I went to enrol for college and they looked at my results and said I should apply for Oxbridge," recalls Richard. "It did appeal, but then you get the feeling that it's not for you and that it's unattainable."

Bradford put Richard in touch with a mentoring scheme at Oxford University and organised a one-week summer school at Cambridge. "There are a lot of myths around Oxbridge, about the public school kids and snobbery, but I found everyone really friendly," says Richard.

"The interviews were challenging, but if you don't give it a try then you will never know." Richard says the support of teachers at Bradford was critical to his success.

Suggested Topics
Sport
world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Sport
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Life and Style
beauty
Sport
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

First Class Graduate (Computer Science, Economics, Finance)

£23000 per annum: Harrington Starr: First Class Graduate (Computer Science, Ec...

Drama Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Liverpool: We are looking for someone who can t...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice