Sidney speedily adopted a creative approach to the virtualisation of its outreach activities since the pandemic took hold, and many of these approaches will continue to play an important role in reaching schools around the country. However, there is nothing quite like experiencing Cambridge in person and we are delighted that Sidney’s outreach and student recruitment events are back in College.

Maria Kazani, Sidney’s new Schools Liaison Officer, leapt into outreach action a few days after graduating from Sidney earlier this summer with a first-class degree in Archaeology. Maria has been passionate about widening participation ever since she arrived at Sidney, and she worked closely with fellow student Shathar Mahmood as the Sidney Sussex College Students’ Union (SSCSU) Access Officers.

When asked why she wanted to join Sidney’s Admissions and Outreach team and what she hopes to achieve in the role, Maria said: ‘I have been passionate about widening participation to higher education since I arrived at Cambridge.

'As an undergraduate, I worked closely with my friend Shathar to organise events and produce materials (such as the Sidney Alternative Prospectus) which would show people from around the UK that passion for a subject and academic skill are the only factors needed to get into Cambridge, regardless of your background. The Sidney Admission team was always at our side during this journey, supporting our ideas and providing us with advice. Joining them felt like a natural progression after finishing my degree, as I am now able to carry over my access work with more resources and more responsibility.

‘In this role, I hope to meet as many students as possible and show them Cambridge and Sidney through a combination of webinar and residential activities. I want to focus on bringing people to see Cambridge in person and to meet like-minded individuals, as that can be a powerful tool in raising the aspirations of young people. I am looking forward to showing that Sidney is a place where everyone can be happy!’

Shortly after starting her new role, Maria was showing prospective students around Sidney during the July Open Days which arrived back in Cambridge after being virtualised for two years. The format has modernised and evolved to include plenty of virtual tours and sessions too.

People gathered outside for Open Day

Sidney’s July Open Days

Sidney’s ambitious outreach programme is in full flow, and the College’s collaborative Low Participation Neighbourhoods (LPN) Summer School (organised alongside Christ’s College and Murray Edwards College) returned to Sidney after also being virtualised for a couple of years.

Maria said: ‘120 Year 12 students from all around the UK visited Cambridge towards the end of August, 60 staying in Sidney and 60 in Christ’s College. They were divided into eight subject streams and were able to attend three sessions with other people from their stream.

'We hope that the academic and social sessions were successful in allowing the students to see that passion and academic ability are the only factors needed to get into higher education and Oxbridge, regardless of one’s background, and in raising their aspirations. A lot of these students will return next year for the second leg of the residential, which will take place in Murray Edwards College.’

Students gathered outside Christ's College

Students gathered outside Christ’s College as part of the LPN Summer School

Next up in the Sidney outreach calendar is a residential for 25 young women and non-binary individuals in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) from under-represented backgrounds in the North and the Midlands. The centrepiece to this will be the Sidney-owned Enigma Machine – one of only approximately 300 Enigma Machines left in museums and private collections around the world – that was generously gifted to the College earlier this year from alumnus Dr Phil Judkins (1966).

The residential will focus on the maths and computing skills that Enigma encapsulates and incorporate confidence-building workshops with women who have built careers in STEM. 

Maria Kazani and a team of student ambassadors

Maria Kazani and a team of Sidney student ambassadors ready to work with prospective applicants

Sidney's September Open Days will also be taking place soon, on the 15 and 16 September.

Prospective students and schools interested in working with Sidney should visit our Access Sidney webpage.

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