- The Team
Why Should you study Natural Sciences? Well firstly if you want to study sciences at Cambridge then you don’t have much choice. Better head off to Oxford instead. But frankly, I felt drawn to studying this subject because I was fascinated with Science, and the NatSci degree let me develop my knowledge and Scientific approach in the broadest sense.
It is no secret that Cambridge has a strong pedigree of scientists and something of a legacy of Nobel Prize winners, but what is important to know is that increasingly, innovation and advances come from inter-disciplinarity. Someone who studied physics and who hadn’t given much thought to what field they might enter later on, may find that they wind up working in a biomedical lab with Biologists, Chemists and physiologists. Nature doesn’t separate itself into well defined categories so why would I have done any differently with my education!
I feel that I am much better placed to enter into further studies and perhaps a career in Science having been able to explore lots of different areas before specialising. I am not sure yet whether I would like to do a PhD or work for a chemical company, for example, as I think that there are many skills in the lab and in producing original publications that I feel I would benefit from. And the course at Cambridge has allowed me this choice.
Even my friends who are incredibly focused on a particular branch, would recommend the broad based approach in the first year of study. There are things that you learn in your first year which seemed completely unrelated at the time, but which later become highly relevant in the context of the research project and advanced study.
The course is intense, and you will be expected to put in a lot of work (which at times feels tough if it’s not your primary area of interest), but as long as you keep things in context, you will find it extremely rewarding. There is also a lot of contact time, which requires preparation for each supervision, but also means that you will be interacting with an array of scientists, all willing to teach and mentor you, and all at the forefront of their specialisation.
As a final point, the number of lectures that you have as a large group in the first year means that you get to know the rest of year, and I have maintained a number of friendships with other Natsci’s who I wouldn’t have met otherwise. It’s a really good way of having friends outside of your own college if you don’t have the luxury of a university-wide sports team or hobby.
It is reported that applications to UK universities for the academic year 2014/15 have fallen 4% while applications to Oxford and Cambridge Universities have risen. The University of Cambridge received more than 16,500 applications for 2014/2015, the highest number since records began and a rise of around 4% compared to applications for the previous year. Moreover, this rise has been proportionately higher in subjects such as Medicine and Law.
This may be explained by the rise in tuition fees, now of course fully implemented, and the fact that students are dissuaded from studying non-vocational subjects for purely academic reasons. Alternatively, a spike in Oxbridge applicants could be explained by the rising number of top applicants and ever increasing difficulty of distinguishing them.
The reduction in applications across the UK might also be attributed to controversial immigration reforms, which have reduced the number of international students who come to the UK. True to the age of populist politics feeding populist journalism, the Government have been able to tackle absolute numbers of immigrants in ‘quick-fix’ fashion, targeting so-called fake university applicants rather than addressing the underlying problem, but in doing so may have scared away thousands of bona fide candidates and much needed foreign spending.
One thing remains a fact, that the UK’s higher education system remains one of its strongest exports. Seeing students dressed in uniform around the world playing our very British sports may be a legacy of colonialism, but there is also an appreciation internationally for the standard of British educational institutions, or at least its form. Hence the appeal for ‘franchise’ schools abroad including Tonbridge and North London collegiate. Universities and MBA courses have also followed suit, with Nottingham having dedicated campuses in Malaysia and Insead, a business school creating a campus in Singapore as a twin to its French campus in Fontainebleau.
A set of interesting articles from both the New Statesman and the Guardian in the annual news pieces which give their thoughts on the admisisons process. Populated by a plethora of Oxbridge-educated journalists, the various publications try to dissect or undermine the admissions process each year.
Below is an interesting article on the 2013 film – Admissions. It gives a perspective of the lack of diversity and affirmative actions taken at British universities as compared with its US counterparts. The author makes some compelling arguments, but notably omits the role of class within British society and the impact of the public v private schooling systems.
Attacks on the lack of diversity at Oxford and Cambridge Universities are not uncommon and certainly well publicised. However, it is surprising to find that this does not apply only to gender, race and religion, but also to the Welsh.
A recent report by the Former Welsh secretary Paul Murphy, tasked with getting more students into Oxford and Cambridge, found that Welsh students may be put off from applying to Oxbridge because of a lack of support and academic self-confidence.
The universities claim that they have been working hard with schools and teachers in Wales to address this problem.
This sixth form college has taken an interesting step towards study. It has recreated a mock Don’s study, complete with wood panels and rustic furnishings, apparently in order to inspire students.
With the interview process posing an exceptionally intimidating atmosphere for the majority of students, this is an interesting way of simulating the actual environment that students will have their tutorials in. But does it justify the 10k spending? Perhaps it is the prospect of the fierce intellect about to interview them, rather than the surroundings, which perpetuate most interviewee anxiety?
I have just finished studying Physics and Philosophy at Brasenose College, Oxford. For those of you thinking of applying for this course, I should warn you that it’s tough, but that it definitely pays off! I wanted to study the degree course which would teach me the most about the world, how it works and what’s in it – and I reckon I made the right choice.
University of Oxford were quick to tweet this ranking, and both Cambridge and Oxford were both in the top 10.
It’s certainly a very American offering, but the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) claims to have a very robust and data-driven approach.
They also have a subject breakdown, with Oxford faring strongly in maths and Cambridge doing well in all of the sciences as we may expect.
It’s worth bearing in mind however, that this research seems very focused on publication output rather than teaching.
The team would like to wish everyone the best today.