Pembroke Summer School Success

14 January 2021

Students from Ashton Sixth Form College took part in the Pembroke College Summer School in August of 2020. 

Pembroke College is part of the University of Oxford, consistently ranked as one of the top universities in the UK and the world (Complete University Guide, 2021).

Ashton Sixth Form College regularly work with Pembroke College, and is proudly The Goldsmiths’ Sutherland Centre for Philosophy and World Religions. This partnership allows students from the college to gain invaluable experiences and opportunities with the University of Oxford.

In recent years, students have travelled to Oxford for the Summer School, but last year the programme adapted and transformed in to an online event. The college and university worked hard to ensure students still had access to the unique programme of activities. 

Students joined a range of tutorial groups, allowing them to explore a topic in depth. Sophie Derbyshire and Wafia Sadik both won scholar prizes for their chosen subjects. Sophie's tutorial group was 'Humour Studies', so she took part in a tutorial at the beginning of the week then wrote an essay and defended it in a final tutorial at the end of the week. Wafia Sadik won a Scholars prize for the STEM programme. Her tutorial group was 'Ecology of Dengue'. Both students won £50 worth of books relating to the subject they are applying for at university. Both their essays were described as 'undergraduate standard'. 

Sophie said of her experience,

In my chosen subject ‘Humour Studies’, the week began by discussing the use of subversive humour and satire in politics and social movements with my tutor and subject group, then I began researching and writing my essay on how far subversive humour could be considered a threat to authoritarian regimes. For the next few ‘option days’, I continued my research as well as attending seminars on a huge range of new topics, from microbiology, to the evolution of the English language, to the philosophy of time travel! Thursday was ‘Admissions Day’ where we learned more about Oxford life and the degree subjects we were interested in. On Friday morning I had the opportunity to discuss and defend my essay one to one with an Oxford tutor, then attended the prize giving ceremony for scholars and exhibitioners that evening, where I won the Scholar Prize for North-West Humanities and Social Sciences!


Overall, the Pembroke Access Week was a jam-packed but massively rewarding opportunity, and a fantastic end to my year on the Humanities and Social Sciences programme. As I’m applying to study sociology at university, the OxNet programme has given me much deeper knowledge of my subject and all undergraduate social sciences – and really proved to me just how much I love them! Not only have I been able to develop skills and discover interests outside my A-levels, but I’ve become so much more confident as a student and a person – applying to OxNet was definitely outside my comfort zone, but I’m so grateful I was able to take part, and will never forget the skills and experience I’ve gained.

Find out more about the college's partnership with Pembroke College here

Humour Studies
Ms. Elizabeth Smith-Rosser, Pembroke College, University of Oxford
People tend to trivialise humour, think “ it’s just a joke, ” “ I’m only kidding” . Perhaps
this has led us to overlook the powerful role humour has held in politics, social
movements, advertising, and many other areas. Humour Studies will offer a brief
introduction to several important topics and issues in Humour Studies. For example,
the ethics of humour – when is it socially acceptable to laugh? How does this
boundary di f fer according to time period and culture, and what can we learn from
that? Satire – why do authoritarian regimes show a particular keenness to suppress
subversive humour though censorship or sometimes more violent means – is the
meme mightier than the sword? Humour in politics – has humour helped or
hindered the career of figures like Boris Johnson and Donald Trump? How has the
advent of social media changed how jokes are used in activism? Following a broad
introduction through newspaper articles, videos and memes, students will be
encouraged to come up with their own essay questions, according to which aspects
have interested them personally.

Ecology of Dengue
Ms. Maisie Vollans, St Hugh's College, University of Oxford
Dengue is a mosquito-borne virus that can be relatively mild, or develop into a
severe, potentially lethal condition. The number of global Dengue cases has greatly
risen in recent decades, and now about half of the world’s population is at risk of
being infected (World Health Organisation, 2020) . This tutorial will focus on how the
interactions of organisms with their living and non-living environment influences
the spread of Dengue. This topic area is relatively wide, al lowing flexibility
dependent on your interests. For instance, you could focus on hostpathogen or
vector-host interactions, climatic influences on disease spread, or disease
control methods. Thus, this tutorial would be suited to future medics, biochemists,
mathematical modellers, public health workers and ecologists alike. More generally,
this tutorial is an opportunity to learn more about the factors that influence disease
spread. These skills can then be used in understanding (and critiquing! ) methods to
control the spread of disease, including COVID-19.

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