Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice Chancellor at the University of Manchester, and Brian Cox, Professor of Astronomy and Physics at the University, TV presenter – and former pop star -, recently enjoyed a busy and successful afternoon here at OSFC. During the visit they had the chance to sample some of the many activities the College is involved in and also formally opened the new Duncan Lawton Building Extension. In addition, they met a whole host of people – OSFC students, staff and governors, primary and secondary school teachers and partners involved with Oldham’s Primary Engineer programme.
The afternoon began with a visit to the Schools’ Lab in our Regional Science Centre where pupils from Broadfield Primary School, who were attending a Primary School Science session at the Centre, had the chance to get their exercise books signed and to question the Professors. One aspiring astrophysicist, Lucas Tierney (10), said of Professor Cox
“He was absolutely awesome.”
The visitors then selected the winning entries in a competition, sponsored by The Ogden Trust and involving nine local secondary schools, whose 14-16-year-old pupils had been invited to submit their designs for posters promoting the importance of studying science in the 21st Century. Each winning pupil received a signed copy of Professor Cox’s latest book ‘Human Universe’. After judging the entries, both professors were so inspired by the work submitted they awarded four prizes instead of three and announced they were arranging another competition – where the winners would have the opportunity to attend Brian Cox’s BBC Stargazing Live event next March.
The group then moved on to the College’s Duncan Lawton Building where they formally opened the new extension and met OSFC Manchester Access Programme (MAP) students past and present to discuss how the programme has benefited them (this group included Tasleema Begum, highest achieving University of Manchester medical student in her year and former OSFC student). Here Professor Cox told students:
“Manchester University is one of the best education establishments in the world and it’s open to you. It’s open to you because of this place”.
Professor Cox also commented on the fact that the success rate for students from OSFC applying to the University of Manchester is nearly double the national average.
Next, moving to the main College building, the visitors dropped in to the Primary Engineer training session taking place at the College for a discussion with primary teachers and engineers about their work on this project, and on encouraging primary school pupils towards future study of STEM subjects.
The afternoon closed with a Question Time session involving over 200 OSFC students and staff where both professors answered some excellent and challenging questions from students. Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell said
“I have been amazed by the facilities here, the activity, the ambassador scheme, how many students from the sixth form college go on to university and how many come to our university which is absolutely fantastic”. She added “Many of the facilities you have here would put a number of universities to shame.”
Professor Cox said
“My life chances came from being inspired by Science. Also our economy, not only locally but nationally, is based more and more on science, engineering and hi-tech industry. There are not enough highly-trained graduates in this country. We need more of them.” He added “Particularly in engineering and physics, there are too few women. What was interesting about the students I saw here today is that that’s not the case. There was a reasonable balance between girls and boys.”
OSFC Principal Jayne Clarke said:
“We were delighted to welcome such distinguished visitors to the College and extremely honoured that they took the time to spend the afternoon with us and find out more about the wide range of activities taking place here to enhance students’ experiences and outcomes. The strong partnerships we enjoy with both the University of Manchester and schools at all levels throughout the borough are very important to us and this visit was a wonderful opportunity to bring them together. We’re looking forward to continuing to work very closely with all those involved in the future.”
The invitation was extended as a result of the very strong relationship OSFC has established with The University of Manchester and following a discussion between Oldham Council Leader Jim McMahon and Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell on the University’s links with the town. Cllr McMahon said:
“Oldham is proud to be a developing University Town and creating opportunities for Oldhamers to realise their ambition. We have a great family of further and higher education but it is important we capitalise on our place in Greater Manchester. We are delighted that The University of Manchester shares our ambition for Oldham and we are proud to welcome Brian Cox back to his home borough.”
Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell added:
“I was extremely impressed with the College’s work in promoting science educational opportunities across the local community, from primary schools upwards. It was great to see first-hand how many different ways the College and the University collaborate together to help young learners fulfil their aspirations, including our School Governor scheme, the Manchester Access Programme and teacher training. The students we met were extremely motivated and creative and I look forward to welcoming many of them to the University in years to come.”