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【SCMP Education Post:Study in the UK】Russell Group universities keeping an eye on EPQ candidates

Boarding 101


Extended Project Qualifications (EPQs) are becoming increasingly accepted and sought after in a candidate by Russell Group universities. Hong Kong students who may be pondering over whether to do an EPQ should not solely be preoccupied with attaining extra UCAS points but rather focus on the benefits of exploring their deepest passions and improving key skills before they move on to university …

First of all, I owe a debt of gratitude to Mr Bob Mitchell, A Level and GCSE Programme Manager at Bellerbys College, Oxford, for sitting with me recently and talking about various issues including Sixth Form education and the EPQ. I have also been able to browse completed Hong Kong and other Asian students’ EPQ projects and I am amazed at the quality of research and critical thinking skills these children possess.

The EPQ first came into fruition in 2008 and now contributes to programmes of study either as a stand-alone qualification (typically as an extension to A Levels) or as part of other programmes such as the AQA Baccalaureate. In simple terms, students are required to choose an area of interest, draft a title and aims of the project and then to research and execute a 5000-word written project. Students are also required to deliver a presentation to a non-specialist audience and keep a Production Log which is essentially a diary documenting each student’s reflections on the project as well as research and planning.

It is clear to see that the nature of the qualification and the power of Sixth Form departments to teach or add a new dimension to the aforementioned key skills combine to pave the way for quicker adaptation and greater success for students at university. Aside from gaining knowledge and improving research and referencing skills, I believe that developing the powers of analysis and expression is key and is exactly what Hong Kong students need. Academic development should be about critically analysing and questioning the great number of interpretations of knowledge and getting away from the idea that there is one standard textbook of “truth” for certain subjects or topics.Of course, the EPQ requires the teaching of key skills and it is standard that 30 guided learning hours will be spent on this taught element. Students work independently and obtain individual supervision and guidance for the rest of the time. Teaching of the skills may vary depending on the nature of each individual research project, but research skills, ethical guidelines, research methodology, ICT skills, referencing and presentations skills would commonly be taught.

With reference to one EPQ project belonging to a student from our neck of the woods who studied at Bellerbys College, Oxford, it is inspiring to see how our children are able to tackle and critically analyse complex topics which they clearly have a passion for. The student in question broadly researched pathogens and disease control. Not my specialist area I must admit, yet still a fascinating read. This student’s level of critical thinking, questioning and conviction in his statements is admirable and Bellerbys College must be credited for that.

Bellerbys, which has campuses in Cambridge, Oxford, London and Brighton, offers a range of A level enrichment programmes which allow students to embed the EPQ within a certain pathway. For instance, Bellerbys Cambridge has a Mechanical Engineering Pathway which enables student to follow the EPQ.

The evidence suggests that the EPQ is valued by Russell Group universities, though not all include the EPQ as part of any offer they make to a student. One institution which is supportive of the EPQ is The University of Bristol which may accept AAB at A-level plus Extended Project or AAA. Therefore, two separate offers may be made at Bristol. Durham University takes a slightly different stance as the EPQ does not form part of the entry requirements for undergraduate degree programmes, but admits that a high predicted or actual grade “will be considered a positive attribute when selecting amongst applicants with similar levels of overall achievement”.

Overall, my meeting with Mr Bob Mitchell and personal analysis of Hong Kong and southeast Asian students’ work has convinced me that the EPQ is worth pursuing, not only for the qualification but because of the self-discipline, research skills and time management skills students gain which will be vital to them at university.

Samuel Chan is the Managing Director of Britannia StudyLInk.

文章作者Samuel Chan是Britannia StudyLink英識教育創辦人。