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UNIQ opportunity to learn about Engineering at Oxford goes virtual

55 state school students took part in online lectures, site visits and admissions workshops

Presentation slide from the UNIQ 2020 Live Coding Workshop on Robots showing a programming tool with various functions and an image of the robot following a line on a lab floor

Teaching and Design Engineer Izzi Mear led a live coding workshop during UNIQ 2020 in which participants connected to various robots around the world and programmed them to do functions including moving forward, backwards, turning and following a line

As part of our Access strategy, each year the Department gets involved in outreach programmes such as UNIQ and Headstart. The UNIQ Summer School aims to attract students from state schools or colleges with strong academic potential, with priority given to students from backgrounds under-represented at Oxford. 

The course, which is usually residential, is designed to give 17 year olds facing a very difficult decision – where to spend their next three or four years – an idea of what it would be like to study Engineering Science at Oxford. They attend taster lectures, engage with lecturers and current students, learn about the Oxford admissions process, do site visits to see engineers at work in the field and spend time in colleges getting the undergraduate experience.

"Before UNIQ I was scared to apply but all the tips helped me”


This year due to Covid-19 UNIQ moved the whole programme online, with the aim still being to give the students a taste of Oxford. In July 2020, 55 students took part in a variety of live and pre-recorded sessions on Microsoft Teams, using the chat function and online forum to interact with the speakers, student ambassadors and each other.

The UNIQ team also put on extra activities around the academic programme to allow participants to get to know one another and the student ambassadors who supervised the week and find out more about what life is like to be an undergraduate at Oxford. The sessions were also recorded for students to revisit the material at a later date and to use what they’ve learnt to explore the subject further in advance of making their university application.

Engineering Science Access & Alumni Officer Libby McGowan says, “The UNIQ programme offers a brilliant opportunity for students to find out what university life is like, studying a subject not usually taught at schools, so I am pleased that we have been able to still provide this in the current circumstances. Engineering is a very broad subject and through this programme we aim to introduce the students to as many types of engineering as possible to provide them with the knowledge to start thinking about the areas that really interest them”.

"A great way of getting a more detailed insight into the way engineering is approached at university"

The academic content included sessions on mathematical modelling, bridge building and live coding. The students even got to do a ‘virtual field trip’, visiting the Rebellion Games Studio for a tour of their operations. Students also took part in admissions sessions at the end of every day to help them prepare for their applications to university, with interview workshops and tips from student ambassadors who have recently been through the process themselves.

Dami, a 1st year undergraduate in Engineering Science, is featured on the UNIQ website talking about her experience on the course in 2017, which she describes as "definitely worth going for".

Following this year’s event, one student commented that the lectures were “a great way of getting a more detailed insight into the way engineering is approached at university”, adding “being able to see where engineering can take you by the lecturers telling us their experience and the Rebellion Games Studio tour has further increased my affinity for engineering”.

Another participant commented, “The admissions sessions were really helpful and they really helped boost my confidence in applying. Before UNIQ I was scared to apply but all the tips helped me”.

“I enjoyed the flexibility for my schedule, as it allowed me to gain both the benefits of UNIQ and not fall behind on my classwork and revision”

The virtual nature of the course this year may even have had some benefits for students and attracted those who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to participate in a residential course. “I enjoyed the flexibility for my schedule, as it allowed me to gain both the benefits of UNIQ and not fall behind on my classwork and revision”, said one attendee.

At the start of the week 38% of students said they were definitely going to apply to do engineering at university. After following the programme, this increased to 76%, with a further 17% saying they were considering it as an option.

Libby adds, “I always enjoy our residential programmes and seeing how the students engage with a new subject and living like an undergraduate for a week. This year it has been especially good to see how the students have adapted to the unusual situation to make the most of the programme. I am excited to see where this year’s students end up and hope to meet some of them in person as Engineering Science undergraduates at Oxford!”

If you would like to join the Outreach mailing list to find out about more opportunities like UNIQ email

Find out more about the Engineering Science course at Oxford.

Visit our Virtual Open Day website.