Just as we were preparing to start our summer programmes delivery, Nick Harrison started as our CEO. He shares his reflections and thoughts on the impact of the programmes on our students.

Having just started as the new CEO of the Sutton Trust, it’s been great to visit many of our summer school programmes up and down the country this summer. I’ve been traveling from St Andrews to Cambridge to Sheffield and beyond. I don’t think I’ve seen as many universities since I was a prospective undergraduate in 1990!

This has been our biggest summer ever, and it’s also the first year since the pandemic that we’re fully back to in-person activity across all programmes. Notably, students on our US programme were able to visit the United States for the first time since 2019, giving them the unique chance to discover what college life is like at universities such as Yale, Harvard, Dartmouth, Princeton, MIT, and more.

Overall, we’ve helped around 10,000 students this year through a mix face-to-face and digital programmes. We’re proud to help many inspiring young people through what we do, and I’d like to thank our university and employer partners – as well as our hard-working staff – for all their efforts in making this year’s delivery a success. You know who you are. Thank you!

Why do we run such a packed summer calendar? Because we know from years of tracking outcomes that participation in one of our programmes delivers huge gains for students. 62% of our UK Summer School students go on to attend a leading university, and our students are 4x more likely to receive an offer from a leading uni than their peers.

Moreover, after finishing uni, more than 9 in 10 of our students move from the lowest to the highest socioeconomic groups, because of the career opportunities they take up. Attending a leading university is one of the biggest ‘unlocks’ for social mobility there is. It’s amazing to see what some of our alumni have gone on to do:

Our diverse pool of alumni are thriving and succeeding in a range of professions that are notoriously difficult to access, including politics, law, finance and the media.

For example, alumni include the current Shadow Health Secretary, Wes Streeting, and the current Minister for Pensions, Laura Trott. Kike Oniwinde was named in the Forbes 30 under 30 in 2019 as a result of her amazing work with the BYP Network; Lesley Roy continues to add to her decade of experience within the media as a producer for BBC News at Six and News at Ten; and Sarah Ateyero is doing great things as a Trainee Clinical Psychologist within the NHS. We are incredibly proud of all of our alumni, who continue to impress us with their achievements.

On a more personal note, it’s been inspiring to see our programmes in action and meet some of the young people whose lives have been touched by what we do.

Education is part of the magic which supports human progress. Without it, we cannot benefit from the knowledge of previous generations. With it, each new generation can see slightly further than those who went before. But education is also magic at the individual level. There is no better moment than seeing a young person have a flash of inspiration, a moment of realization, or a step up in confidence as they try a new skill.

There were many such magic moments on our programmes. The young engineers presenting back their weeklong project. The aspiring architects explaining their learnings, including with a rap performance (!). The English students talking animatedly about their trip to Macbeth. Students running a mock trial on global warming, visiting Jaguar Land Rover to hear about apprenticeships, or participating in a trading game run by one of our business partners. I could go on.

Almost more importantly there were many individual conversations with students who were now thinking differently about the opportunities open to them, and who had grown in confidence about what they might do and which university they might apply to.

Many of these youngsters will be the first in their families to go to university, and quite a few had dealt with real life challenges such as illness, disability, or difficult family circumstances. All of them though – whether from a small village in Scotland, inner London, or a Northern industrial town – shared a common desire to learn and grow. They all had big ambitions, and so they should.

At the Sutton Trust, we exist so that every young person can follow their dreams, whatever their background, wherever they are from, and whatever challenges they’ve had to transcend.

One girl asked me whether I thought she should apply to Cambridge, or whether it was “full of posh people who only worked and had no fun”. At this point I had to admit that I went to Cambridge – a naïve Northern kid from a local comprehensive – in 1991. Thankfully I found it friendly and plenty of fun, so I encouraged her to apply.

Education was my route to a great career, and it’s a privilege in this role to be helping others follow a similar path.

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