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Young people standing against a building, behind a purple Durham University 'welcome' banner

Sixth form pupils from schools across the North of England were given a taste of university life at Durham via the Elephant Group Spring Conference.

The Elephant Group is a headteacher-led charity committed to creating fair student access to top universities by working with schools, universities, and wider partner organisations. 

Through its Elephant Access programme, the charity delivers targeted activities designed to support capable students into the universities and career paths that they deserve. 

We are one of the charity’s partner universities, and hosted the group’s Spring Conference in March. 

It was attended by pupils from Macmillan School in Middlesbrough, Bede Academy in Blyth and the Sheffield-based Mercia School and Astrea Academy Trust.  

Demystifying university 

The pupils were treated to a packed day of presentations and activities designed to demystify the university experience. 

This included sessions on effective revision and learning techniques, a tour of the University campus and a study skills session delivered by David Metcalfe of Newcastle University. 

The pupils were also able to meet current Durham students and ask them questions about all aspects of university life. 

Ava Savvery-Robinson, a Macmillan Academy pupil from Middlesbrough, said: “I think it’s been very motivating and very helpful to get a feel for what university life is like.” 

Widening access 

Jonathan Batty, our Deputy Academic Registrar (Access, Recruitment and Admissions), said events like the Elephant Group Spring Conference were important to empower the next generation of learners to make informed decisions about their future. 

He added: “We want to ensure more students from the North of England have the aspiration, potential and support to apply to Durham University and succeed with us.  

“This is why we are expanding our work with state primary and secondary schools, further education colleges and other North East universities, to raise aspirations and improve levels of attainment from an early age.  

“We hope the pupils all enjoyed their visit to Durham and that the Elephant Group Spring Conference has given them some extra confidence when it comes to making important decisions about their educational future.” 

Find out more 

- Learn more about the Elephant Group

- Read about how our Access and Participation programmes support students