Year 12

AS / A2 Level Travel Writing Competition (for students in the South of England)

Multilingual sign outside restaurant in Lugano, SwitzerlandSign outside a restaurant in Lugano, Italian-speaking Switzerland. Credit: Eric Andresen

Routes into Languages (South Consortium) are running a travel writing competition for students currently taking AS or A2 Levels in the South of England.

Based on your travel experiences, write a feature article of no more than 500 words in your chosen target language (French, German, Spanish, or Italian). You could win a £50 Amazon voucher for your efforts! The closing date for the competition is 1 September and the winners will announced on the European Day of Languages (26 September).

For more information, please see the competition website.

Date posted: 

Monday 4 August 2014


Languages Summer School at Sidney Sussex College - places available!

German flag

Image credit: fdecomite

Sidney Sussex College is running a residential summer school for Language-based subjects on 18-20 August this year. If you are in Year 12 and considering an application to study languages at Cambridge, please do apply for this opportunity!

This course is suitable for students interested in studying:

Through sample lectures, classes and small group tuition you will have the opportunity to see what it is like studying languages at university level, find out more about languages and cultures themselves, and mix with other students from all over the country who share your interests. You will also experience the College environment, which will be helpful whichever Cambridge College you eventually apply to.

There is no charge for the summer school. If you are eligible for free school meals, Sidney Sussex may be able to help with travel costs.

If you are interested in attending the summer school, please email Carly Walsh at Sidney Sussex College for further details.

Date posted: 

Monday 28 July 2014


On interviews

Woman reading

One of the things that interviewers look for is genuine interest. Image credit: THX0477

We interview most people who apply to Cambridge (more than 80%). It is in interviews that subject specialists are able to work with you directly, see how you think and work, and really explore your academic potential for the course that you've applied for.

We hope that you will find the following new Cambridge University film useful, and we particularly hope that it will put any summer work that you are doing to develop your interests into context!

Date posted: 

Sunday 27 July 2014


The Rise, Rise, and Rise of Chemical Engineering

Everyday PlasticsEveryday Plastics. Art Exhibition in Christchurch Botanical Gardens. Credit: Geof Wilson

The Royal Academy of Engineering estimates that the UK needs 100,000 graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) simply to sustain its existing industries. So Geoff Maitland, President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE), is right to celebrate the rise in the numbers of applications for Engineering in general, and Chemical Engineering in particular.

Are you thinking of studying Engineering at university? Why not Chemical Engineering? IChemE explains:

Chemical engineering is all about changing raw materials into useful products you use everyday in a safe and cost effective way. For example petrol, plastics and synthetic fibres such as polyester and nylon, all come from oil. Chemical engineers understand how to alter the chemical, biochemical or physical state of a substance, to create everything from face creams to fuels.

Date posted: 

Wednesday 23 July 2014


Girl Summit 2014

Alimatu Dimonekene speaking at the Girl Summit

Alimatu Dimonekene speaking. Image credit: UK Department for International Development

The Girl Summit 2014 was held in London yesterday, focusing on domestic and international efforts to end female genital mutilation and child, early and forced marriage.


World Health Organisation factsheet on Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change

Girl Summit 2014:

How should an anthropologist study female genital mutilation?

Date posted: 

Wednesday 23 July 2014


Edgar Jones Philosophy Essay Competition (Year 12)

Middlesbrough Library

Middlesbrough Central Library. Image credit: summonedbyfells (cropped)

If you have just finished Year 12 and are looking for some Philosophy questions to get your teeth into during the summer, you may be interested in the 2014 Edgar Jones Philosophy Essay Competition which is being held by St Peter's College, Oxford.

You are asked to choose one of the following two questions:

  1. Does the fact that our senses can deceive mean that we can have no perceptual knowledge?
  2. Could you be a bad person and yet do the right thing all the time?

The closing date for submissions is 12 September 2014, there's a word limit of 2000 words, and you will notice that the judges are looking for clarity of thought and expression and cogency in your arguments in particular. Do read the full details on the St Peter's College website before you start your research!

Date posted: 

Monday 21 July 2014


The Euro and Its Impact

Euro notes

Credit: Images money

What does economics tell us about the operation of single currency areas and currency unions (such as the Eurozone)?

This is one of the questions that the Euro and Its Impact resource asks you to consider. This pdf was produced by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), and is designed for sixth formers with an interest in economic affairs and policy. It provides information on the topic as well as suggestions for further reading.

If you would like to find out more about the Institute of Economic Affairs and what it does, do have a look at its IEA website. If you have a particular area of interest, you may find the policy areas section useful for finding relevant material.

Date posted: 

Thursday 17 July 2014


Trinity College's Robson History Prize (Year 12)


What is to be gained by studying the histories of seas or oceans?
Image credit: AvidlyAbide

If you are interested in History (including historical aspects of a wide range of courses from Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic to Economics, Philosophy and Theology) why not think about some of the questions that Trinity College has set for their Robson History Prize? There's a wide choice of 59 titles, so you are bound to find a topic that you would enjoy studying.

Here are just a few of them:

  • What was the role and influence of Queens in Anglo-Saxon England?
  • Was the Hundred Years War really a single conflict?
  • What were the causes of the European ‘witchcraze’ in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries?
  • What sort of a revolution was the French revolution?
  • How did the Atlantic slave trade affect state formation and economic growth in West Africa?
  • Why was the Spanish civil war so bloody?
  • ‘The Attlee government’s failure to create a socialist commonwealth was as much due to ideological shortcomings as economic constraints.’ Discuss.
  • To what extent do market forces pose a threat to the accuracy of popular history?
  • Is the goal of Aristotle’s Politics to arrive at a theory of the best state?

If you would like to work on an essay to enter in the competition, the deadline is 1 August and do make sure that you read the full details (including the full list of titles) on Trinity College's website before you start. If you don't have chance or don't want to do that, do have a look at the titles nonetheless as there's plenty of inspiration for research and thought.

Date posted: 

Wednesday 16 July 2014


Pierre Bourdieu: What affects our tastes?

Beach Scene by Renoir

For Bourdieu, cultural consumption  is 'an act of deciphering, decoding, which presupposes practical or explicit mastery of a cipher'. Renoir image credit: freeparking

How much is taste shaped by education and social influences? Pierre Bourdieu was a French sociologist, anthropologist and philosopher who looked into these questions, most famously in his 1975 book, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste.

In the introduction, Bourdieu writes:

Taste classifies, and it classifies the classifier. Social subjects, classified by their classifications, distinguish themselves by the distinctions they make, between the beautiful and the ugly, the distinguished and the vulgar, in which their position in the objective classifications is expressed or betrayed.

Bourdieu collected information through questionnaires which asked people questions about their tastes in art, literature, music etc. For example, he compared preferences for different musical pieces and charted these against information about each particpant's social background:

Bourdieu's text includes diagrams and charts which plot his results and show correlations that he found in the data. A key idea in this book is that of 'cultural capital', that is, 'assets' that people acquire, such as education and cultural experience, which can affect social mobility regardless of financial means.

If you have the opportunity to look at Bourdieu's work, do have a think about this way of looking at taste. Do you agree / disagree / recognise aspects of it? Can you think of any examples in modern culture and society? What do you think of the way that Bourdieu collected and used his data? Does his work have wider implications for questions of taste, sociology and identity?

Further exploration:

Date posted: 

Friday 11 July 2014


Engineering - how to prepare for an application

A bulk superconductor

A bulk superconductor over a magnet

King's Electrical Engineer, Mark Ainslie, is looking at how superconductors can make electric motors work better, and is part of a team that has just broken the world record for the strongest trapped magnetic field in a bulk high-temperature superconductor:

Listen to Mark Ainslie giving advice about how to prepare for your application to study Engineering, and what to expect in your interviews.


Finally, do read about the maths and physics that you need to make a competitive application.

Date posted: 

Wednesday 9 July 2014



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