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St Hugh’s outreach officer runs 130km to improve access

The Outreach Officer at St Hugh’s College completed a 130km run along the Kent coast this week to improve access to higher education.

Along the way, Lena Sorochina visited twelve schools from Camber Sands to Whitstable, giving talks to pupils about applying to and studying at the University of Oxford.

Visiting both secondary and primary schools, Sorochina’s run was inspired by recent research published by the Bridge Group in February 2019, which revealed a “stark contrast between the widening participation and outreach activities” in London and other parts of the country.

The research concluded that there was “a backdrop of highly unequal access to cultural enrichment and outreach for students” depending on where they lived.

The Principal of St Hugh’s College, the Rt Hon Dame Elish Angiolini, said: “We are so pleased that Lena is bringing Oxford to so many school pupils across Kent, and in such a novel way.”

“So many who would thrive at Oxford and other universities don’t consider applying. Our message is loud and clear: we want the best students from every background to consider coming to Oxford to study.”

Sorochina, who is currently studying for a DPhil in 18th-century French literature, thought a running tour was an unusual way to show young people that university can also be fun.

The distance covered in the St Hugh’s Coast Run is more than three marathons. Sorochina, who has been running since she was 16, has run one marathon and several half-marathons.

Sorochina said: “I hope that this tour will inspire children and young people to be ambitious and aim high, to realise that anything is within their reach if they put their minds to it.”

“I hope that it will encourage them to consider going to university as not only an achievable, but a fun future destination. This project also highlights the benefits of sport for physical and mental wellbeing,” she added.

With 14 schools signed up, there has been a positive response from local schools. Teachers and schools are eager to encourage their pupils and raise their aspirations.

Mr Dan Shepperson, Head of Year 8 at the Charles Dickens School, Broadstairs, said: “We are very interested in breaking down the barriers pupils face in going to university, especially the top-ranked universities in the country.”

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