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Thursday 01-Dec-2016
【SCMP Education Post:寄宿學校攻略】A thoroughly International Education at St Clare's Oxford

Sixteen-year-old Hongkongers seeking a world-class sixth form education in a vibrant multi-cultural environment need not look no further than St Clare’s Oxford. For this cosy college, unique is the name of the game with expertise in providing the IB Diploma, over 40 nationalities represented on the IB programme and an elegant location just a short walk from one of the most beautiful city centres in the world …

I get butterflies in my stomach when I approach certain boarding schools in my car. Not because of fright, but in sheer awe of the stunning grounds all around me and the imposing buildings I can make out in the distance. As I drive into Oxford through the northern suburb of Summertown, the feeling is the same because of the surprises this wonderful city constantly throws up. Then, I see students flock into St Clare’s on the Banbury Road and I think to myself how fortunate they are.

St Clare’s is a non-selective, co-educational, day and boarding, sixth form college. Famous for being the longest-serving provider of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma in the UK (39 years), St Clare’s also runs a range of other courses, including a pre-IB course, General English summer courses and University Pathways programmes.

Founded in 1953 by Anne Dreydel and Pamela Morris, St Clare’s remains committed to advancing international education and understanding. Originally, the founders wished to create links between British and European students after the Second World War. Indeed, during the 50s, students came to Oxford from a host of Western European countries. Nowadays, there are upwards of 40 nationalities represented on the IB programme alone.

Over the years, St Clare’s has witnessed monumental growth. With increasing demand, the College campus has had to grow to allow for more teaching space and residential accommodation. More recent additions include an art studio and a beautifully designed Science and Mathematics building. Otherwise, the stunning large Victorian and Edwardian houses around the campus ensure that the College can blend the old with the new.

The area in which St Clare’s does come into its own then is IB. Only 13 other institutions worldwide have delivered IB programmes longer than St Clare’s. The College maintains that the qualification offers more breadth and depth than A Levels and that it gives students an advantage when applying to university. It also makes the point that schools offering A Levels do not tend to integrate sporting, cultural and volunteering activities within their sixth form curriculum whereas the IB leaves space for this possibility.

St Clare’s believes in a collective and supportive approach to ensure students enter their dream Higher Education institution. Learning never feels forced as, instead, the College seeks to nurture in its students a passion for learning to last a lifetime. It is admirable that St Clare’s is willing to, possibly, sacrifice its position in league tables as pass rates for A Levels are evidently easier to acquire. Quite simply, the College is firmly attached to its traditions and ethos and is successful at what it does.

In addition to the IB, St Clare’s also offers University Pathways programmes for students 17 and over. For University Foundation Courses, there are two streams: English with Business and English with International Affairs. Subject classes are taught by specialist academic instructors, many of whom lecture at The University of Oxford. Also on offer is a Liberal Arts Programmes which is accompanied by a packed programme of extra-curricular activities and trips.

Moving away from academics, let us briefly consider boarding at St Clare’s. Compared to some of Britain’s most traditional full boarding schools, boarding at the College certainly appears to be more relaxed - in a positive sense of course. Each house has a resident warden responsible for the care of students and upholding house rules. This is enough because the fifteen College houses accommodate as few as seven students.


Finally, a word about the city of Oxford. I must reiterate that not many cities give me that “buzz” when I enter the suburbs and descend upon the city centre. Oxford has it all - museums, parks, art galleries and, of course, university colleges. There is also punting on the river which offers a generally very peaceful and even rural experience.

Hong Kong families are encouraged to attend an Open Morning at St Clare’s to get a better idea of how successful the College is at preparing students for the IB and whatever may come after this course. Tours are given by current students so there will not be a better opportunity to get to the very heart of what this wonderful institution is all about.

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Samuel Chan, the winner of Alumni Awards 2017, is the founder of Britannia. He had studied in the UK since the age of 9 for 15 years and achieved his master degree in International Political Economy at University of Warwick. Now he shares his experiences and professional advice in education columns in Hong Kong’s major newspapers.


Mabel Chan is the Principal Consultant of Britannia. Having studied in both the UK and the US, she is an expert in school matching for overseas education. She writes education columns for Sing Tao Daily and The Standard, and answers questions arising from parents and students patiently.


MB Cheung, our senior consultant, has been writing education columns for major local newspapers for more than 25 years. With his experience and unique insights, he shares a variety of tips and advice on overseas education for the readers (and DSE students)

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