Faculty of Arts – Alumni Stories

The Widening Participation team recently reached out to University of Bristol alumni, to ask if we could help them tell the inspiring stories of their careers after graduation.  These alumni had studied courses in the Faculty of Arts, and all three gave fascinating insights into the skills they developed at the University of Bristol.

Claudia Bell graduated with a degree in Theology in 2018, before taking up an internship at the United Nations in New York.  In Claudia’s Alumni Story, linked below, we hear about how her degree equipped her for excelling in this internship through the ability to problem solve, write well, and appreciate a range of different viewpoints.  We also get an insight into what an internship at the UN involves, from organising events to researching weapons and ammunition.

Now a Senior Propositions Manager at Barclays, Jamain Graveney graduated with a BA in History in 2006.  Drawing on an interesting a varied career, Jamain reflects on the critical thinking that he had gained from his degree programme in his Alumni Story and explains how the skills he acquired on his course lay the foundation for his successful career after he graduated.  From challenging assumptions to harnessing the power of attention, Jamain sets out the ways in which his degree in History continues to help him right up to the present time.

After studying a BA in Politics and Italian and graduating in 2016, Alexi Alafouzo became the Regional Manager for Minerva, a charity providing support to women and girls with complex needs who have committed crime and are at risk of re-offending.  Alexi explains how her degree programme taught her about the importance of analysing societal issues, and then working on how to fight systemic inequality.  As well as providing inspiration for her career trajectory after graduating, Alexi outlines how studying Politics and Italian helped her develop skills including public speaking, working collaboratively, and being a good writer.

We were privileged to be able to work with all three of these fantastic alumni, and we hope that their stories can serve as a reminder that students graduate from university with much more than a qualification.  From the skills acquired to how employable these skills have made Claudia, Jamain and Alexi, we hope that their example will encourage students from a range of backgrounds to take up degree programmes in the Faculty of Arts.

A year in the University of Bristol’s Widening Participation team

As the academic year 20-21 draws to a close, we in the Widening Participation team want to reflect on the challenges and successes we’ve had delivering our outreach programmes amidst the continuing pandemic. It was paramount to us that we strengthened our support towards students both in the Bristol area and beyond. We decided to face this challenging educational situation as an opportunity for development, turning our programmes and events into exciting new formats and developing new activities to better adapt to this ever-evolving situation. 

In response to the pandemic, in addition to our long-standing partnerships with charities like IntoUniversity, this year we have been pleased to partner with Brightside and the Brilliant Club to offer additional support to those young people most affected by the current situation. Through Brightside, we offered 1:1 mentoring to 150 young people nationally, helping them explore their future options and receive support and guidance from current students. In collaboration with the Brilliant Club, we are providing additional tuition opportunities for local schools within Bristol, to help mitigate the learning lost to the pandemic.  

Throughout the year, we have run some of our flagship programmes in new ways, including a fully virtual version of our well-established Access to Bristol programme. Created for local Year 12/13 students and Mature students undertaking an Access to HE course, this programme facilitates access to the University by offering all who complete it a guaranteed contextual offer or interview. This year, Access to Bristol welcomed over 500 students to 13 subject streams over 10 weeks in total. Access to Bristol will run again in 21-22 -please register your interest here! We also strengthened our Virtual Resources: these have proven very popular, allowing prospective students to experience university-level resources and teaching online, and offering teachers and educators support in their work. If you would like to access these resources, please sign up here! Teachers can also sign up to the popular Schools and Colleges newsletter, which allows them to keep up to date with all opportunities Bristol is delivering for education professionals and their students. 

In spring 2021, we launched Next Step Bristol, a programme for students in Year 13 from Black or Asian backgrounds. This programme was specifically designed to be delivered virtually, allowing participants to experience the university remotely, through a series of virtual events including academic sessions, study skills support, student-led society events and UCAS application support. You can read more about this year’s Next Step Bristol in Arjun’s post on our blog, reflecting on his experience as a Student Advisor at this year’s programme. We also launched STEM Up (22 April – 20 May): designed for students on the first year of an A-Level, BTEC, or prospective mature students, the course comprised 5 online sessions which gave students the chance to experience what studying a STEM subject at the University of Bristol might be like, as well as to ask questions of our current students. Read all about the first STEM Up session in our blog post! Our Science for Life Roadshows offered another opportunity for students to experience the breadth of expertise in the Life Sciences at the University of Bristol, with sessions delivered by our postgraduate research students.  

We also held the second Destinations Conference, in partnership with the African Caribbean Society (ACS). The Destinations Conference was a one-day event inviting students from Black backgrounds to experience an academic session in a chosen subject, delivered by one of our UoB expert academics, along with a Q&A with current UoB students from those subject areas. We also had a very special keynote from Lawrence Hoo, Bristol-based poet and co-founder of the Cargo creative project. Read more about the Destinations Conference in this blog post. 

In another debut, we collaborated with six other veterinary schools across the country in the national vet school WP network, the British Veterinary Association and British Veterinary Ethnicity & Diversity Society to deliver the first ever Vet National Programme. Hosted by the University of Bristol with a panel of 26 guest speakers, student ambassadors and staff from the 7 Veterinary schools (Bristol, Nottingham, Liverpool, Surrey, Royal Veterinary College, Edinburgh and Cambridge), we had over 180 attendees who asked over 100 questions on student life, campus, curricula and work experience.  

We also debuted Year 12 Explore, a series of online subject taster sessions led by academics and PhD researchers at UoB, combined with a Q&A portion with Student Ambassadors currently studying in the relevant Faculty. There were sessions in Arts and Humanities, Life and Health Science, Science and Engineering, and Social Sciences and Law. You can register your interest for next year’s Explore events here! 

We also delivered a series of webinars in collaboration with the School of Modern Languages for A-Level students studying languages. Academic staff, alumni and students at Bristol answered questions about what it is like to study languages at university, the year abroad, and what careers you can do with a languages degree. Our provision for students interested in the Arts and Social Sciences also included a live-chat event where Year 12 students could ask about subjects they don’t always have a chance to study at school: Explore New Options in Arts and Social Sciences. Students found out more about subjects ranging from Archaeology, History of Art, Criminology, to our wide range of Joint Honours courses. 

What does the future hold for WP? 

Our team is always looking forward, and the upcoming summer poses quite a few challenges. As new variants of the virus spread, we continue to prioritize the safety of our project participants and tutors while delivering the best programmes possible.  

This summer we will hold our Summer Schools – Insight Into Bristol and Sutton Trust – virtually, building on the success of last years online delivery where over 300 students participated! They helped us and our project participants feel connected and motivated at a very difficult time. All  participants who complete the scheme are eligible for a guaranteed contextual offer or interview for entry at the University. 

We will also hold another Being BAME at Bristol event on the 8th of July. These are live chat events for Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students who plan to apply to university next academic year. You will hear from current BAME University of Bristol students about their experiences, offering the opportunity to ask questions about student life, tips on applying to university, and the range of opportunities on offer at the University of Bristol. You can still express an interest in attending using this form! 

The Faculty of Life Sciences will host a week of virtual work experience sessions from June 28th to July 2nd: find out more details here. This is to help students in Year 10 and Year 12 compensate for the reduction in opportunities to undertake work experience in the fields of Life Sciences. Spaces for Year 12s are full, but Year 10s can still apply – fill in this form if you are interested! 

We cannot wait to meet everyone remotely and hope to inspire a new generation of Bristol students to join us soon! 

Destinations Conference 2021

The Destinations Conference took place on 13 April 2021 as a one-day event designed for students from Black backgrounds to experience what the University of Bristol (UoB) has to offer.  The conference was delivered online as a collaboration between the Widening Participation (WP) team and the University’s African and Caribbean Society (ACS).  This event was the second Destinations Conference, the first conference having been in October 2019 as part of Black History Month. The online format of the event offered exciting possibilities, for example of expanding the cohort to students from all over the country, whom we were delighted to welcome!

The day kicked off with a talk from the ACS and a keynote address from Lawrence Hoo, Bristol-based poet and co-creator of the CARGO creative organisation.  Hoo told students about his creative process, his engagement with the local community, and his role as an educator.  He also shared some of his work, reading from his poetry and sharing some of CARGO’s film content.  Feedback from the event suggests that the keynote talk was inspiring for the students, as it demonstrated how to use creativity and vision to make a difference to the community and advance social justice.

We had over 100 students signed up across five subject streams: Arts and Humanities; Business and Finance; Health Sciences; Social Sciences; and STEM.  In the morning, students received an academic session on their chosen stream, delivered by one of the expert academics working at UoB.  Topics ranged from the Black Humanities to the social inequalities highlighted by Covid-19, which led to interesting discussions between students and academics.

In the afternoon, the students took part in Q&A sessions about student life that were hosted by members of the ACS.  The student Q&A panels were well-received by students, who found them helpful in understanding the experiences of Black students at the University of Bristol.  Finally, the WP team delivered an information session on choosing a course and a university, including advice on applying to competitive universities.

All in all, it was a real pleasure to run the event and it was great to see so many engaged students – given that the sun which was shining outside on the date of the event the high level of attendance showed excellent commitment!  It was good to hear in the event feedback that students enjoyed the event, and we are looking forward to running similar events in the future.


Languages and the Year Abroad Webinar

 Winner – Unexpected Category, Year Abroad Photo Competition 2016-17 by Sophia Flaxman. Title: ‘Higher Education’ (Cuesta del Obispo, Argentina).


This event was open to anyone doing a language at A-Level or in Year 11 and thinking of doing an A-Level language next year. The webinar was attended by 81 students and teachers from around the UK. Participants were able to meet staff and current and former students at Bristol and hear what it is like to study languages at university, about the Year Abroad and what careers you can do with a Languages degree.

Before the event, participants were given the chance to pre-submit questions to our panelists that we answered before opening the floor to live questions. Students were also sent videos made by current students and staff about student life and course options. You can view the video channel here: Languages at Bristol.

Our speakers included Dr. Ian Foster, Director of Foreign Language Teaching, three student ambassadors currently studying Languages in their fourth year, and two former students, Emily-Hall Strutt and Alex Marrow. Emily studied Spanish and Italian at Bristol and now works as a Delivery Manager for the Ministry of Justice. Alex graduated from Bristol in 2015 with a degree in Russian and Portuguese and now works as a journalist for Reuters in Moscow. It was fascinating to hear from Emily and Alex about their career paths and how their languages have helped them to get to where they are today.

Here is what some participants said they most enjoyed about the event:

  • “I really like that there were graduates there that finished university a while ago. It was useful to see where I could potentially get to if I study languages.”
  • “All questions were answered to a very high standard and it helped me to understand the language courses at Bristol University.”
  • “How it focused on the questions we asked in advanced, rather than it being a webinar of just feeding us a whole lot of information, it was tailored to what the attendees wanted to hear! I think having a mixture of people who are at different points in their life is also very useful as we were able to see how a person is able to use their languages, indirectly, and the benefits for travel- instead of making a career out of languages.”
  • “Hearing from the students themselves and their perspectives of their courses and it was really interesting and a great way to hear about where languages could take you from the past students that studied at Bristol.”

We hope to repeat this next year, and to return to delivering events on campus soon. You can keep up to date with events we are hosting by checking our outreach webpage. If you are a school student or teacher, you can sign up to events via our Schools and Colleges Newsletter.

A-Level Language Film Webinars

In March 2021 we hosted a series of webinars for students doing Spanish, French, and German at A-Level. 127 students took part over the 3 virtual events, which covered films taught on the A-Level syllabus: Pan’s Labyrinth, La Haine, and Lives of Others.

During the events, student participants heard a lecture given by Dr. Miguel Garcia Lopez from the Department of Hispanic Studies, Dr. Albertine Fox who is a lecturer of French Film, and Dr. Debbie Pinfold, Senior Lecturer in German at Bristol. The academic presentations covered the cultural and historical contexts of each film, their relevance and critical reception, references to texts, films and directors for comparison and wider reading, and character development, plot, and cinematographic techniques used with examples from specific scenes and shots.

The lectures were followed by lively and engaging discussions and questions about each film. The online Q&A format allowed students to view and respond to each other’s written questions and comments, which participants found helpful. Students also heard from current undergraduates about their experience as a student of Languages or the Arts at Bristol, and were given some tips about preparing for exams and making the jump from A-Level to University. One key tip is to find a way to engage with the language you are studying. This can be through music, podcasts, films, books, cooking, sport… anything that fires up your interest and motivation!

Here is what some students said about the film webinars:

  • “I enjoyed the readiness of the academics and students to answer questions and their obvious passion for their subjects. I enjoyed the engaging delivery of the webinar and the background information about the film”
  • “I found the ‘taster’ seminar rather interesting and showed me what classes at university are like.”
  • “I mostly enjoyed the deep analysis of the film as that allowed me to think critically and build on my analytical skills”

This event has become a regular feature of the Outreach calendar for languages at Bristol. It was first launched in 2018 as a physical event on the university campus with a tour of the School of Modern Languages and our Multimedia Centre (which includes a cinema!) This year the event has moved online due to the pandemic; however, the online format allowed more students to take part from around the UK.

We hope to return to delivering events on campus soon. You can keep up to date with events we are hosting by checking our outreach webpage. If you are a school student or teacher, you can sign up to events via our Schools and Colleges Newsletter.

STEM Up launches!

The first session of the new Widening Participation program, ‘STEM Up’, launched on 22nd April 2021!  Kicked off with an inspiring introduction from Professor David Smith, Undergraduate Dean in the Faculty of Science, where he discussed the importance of STEM subjects and the relevance of them in today’s world, it was followed by an academic talk from Dr Irina Lazar from the Faculty of Engineering.  Participants had received materials in the post a couple of weeks before the launch that allowed them to complete a Tower-Building Challenge and send pictures of their completed towers in.  The entries were fantastic – Irina was really impressed by the strength and design of the towers – some even managed to hold potatoes and watermelons! 







Participants enjoyed interacting with the staff during these sessions and having their questions about life at the University of Bristol answered, before splitting into Science or Engineering breakout rooms where they met student ambassadors and did some ice breaker activities in small groups.   

We’re all looking forward to seeing the participants back for the next 4 weeks, with academic sessions run by staff from the Science and Engineering Faculties as well as sessions covering student societiesnext steps and alumni and student visitors. 

Find out more about our Science and Engineering outreach programmes and events here! This video gives you a taste of one of our other Engineering outreach programmes – Digimakers

Next Step Bristol 20/21

During the academic year 2020/2021, I was a Next Step Bristol programme Student Advisor. This role involved providing prospective University of Bristol students information about student life and answering any questions they had. 

The Next Step Bristol programme is a great opportunity for students in Year 13 from around the UKwho come from Black or Asian backgrounds to experience parts of the University and receive support online, through different virtual events. The programme offered a mixture of events this year such as academic taster sessions, student-led society events and support with UCAS and student finance applications. Other events that could run next year can be seen at Next Step Bristol | Study at Bristol | University of Bristol. 

The virtual events this year were typically on a Wednesday afternoon and each event had a topic, such as accommodation, student finance, application process, UCAS, wellbeing, careers, student societies etc. All events were run after school hours and in periods of the school year that are less busy for Year 13s

At each event, the students would first attend a session on one of the topics mentioned above, which would usually be for an hourFollowing this, the students went into their smaller groups for the Student Advisor sessionsThese groups were made up of students who were applying for an undergraduate course in the same faculty, and in these breakout sessions we discussed life at University.  

ran the Science Faulty session along with another University of Bristol student, who studied Physics. The students in this session were interested in studying a subject from the Faculty of Science, such as maths, physics, geography etc. There were separate advisor groups for each different Faculties, including Arts, EFM (Economics, Finance and Management), Engineering, Health, Law, Life Science, Science and SPAIS (Sociology, Politics and International Studies). During these sessions we would discuss our experiences and answer general questions about university life.  

The benefit of the advisor sessions was that students felt comfortable and confident to ask us questions in the smaller groups, when it might be nerve-racking to ask questions to the people running the main sessions. It also meant that we, as Student Advisors, got know the students. It was difficult to engage at first as we all met online and it was new for us, but as time went on, the students felt more comfortable to ask questions and participate in conversations virtually.   

Where the main session covered important aspects of the applying to university and the support available, in the advisor sessions we would discuss how we find student life and what living in Bristol is like. We also talked about how we managed our time as science students and how new students can ensure they have a good balance between study and socialising, whether that be with friends or at any society events they may want to attend. The advisor sessions are a safe space, where prospective students could ask how we found different aspects of the University. We found that we could talk about everything – from how to manage finances at university to the best place to eat in Bristol!  

felt like we all enjoyed the programme more as time went on. After the first sessions, the other Science advisor and I realised engaging and supporting students online can be hard.  After completing more and more sessions, we got to learn new things about each other and the students which made the space feel less formal. This made the sessions fun, relaxed and therefore the students felt more comfortable asking questions.  

One student said that they definitely would recommend as the programme helped me through my application immensely, providing emotional support as well as materials that I would not usually be able to access. This programme gave me an opportunity to apply to Bristol and increased my chance of getting an offer.  

As an advisor, I felt the students became less anxious throughout the course of the programme and by the end they felt more confident to speak to myself and the other advisor and in taking their next steps to the University of Bristol.  

The students built relationships with each other throughout the programme. Since the advisor sessions were the same group of 15 students, they made a group chat with each other after the first couple of sessions. This was great to see, as it meant that when they come to study at Bristol, they will know other students already studying in their Faculty. I look forward to meeting them on campus when term starts at the reunion in September. 

For me – I gained skills in working virtually whilst being in the Zoom meetings. My communication skills improved, as we were required to think of different ways to engage prospective students and keep a flow of dialogue throughout our sessions.  I also really enjoyed meeting the students! 

Future students on the programme should expect to gain useful information about university life at Bristol and learn ways in which the University will aid students who belong to Black or Asian backgrounds. I would highly recommend the programme, as I believe it is a great way to find out what it is like to be a Bristol student from current students. 

Mini Bio: My name is Arjun, and I am a fourth-year mathematics student at the University of Bristol. I was a Next Step Bristol advisor during the academic year 2020/2021.

Bristol’s Young Engineers Show Their Skills

The brief: design a product to solve a problem in your own home. The team: 20 budding engineers, children from Bristol’s Barton Hill Settlement and the surrounding area, who took up the challenge as part of a summer school run by the Faculty of Engineering’s Outreach team.

The children all identified a problem, worked out how it could be solved and then designed, built and presented their invention, using their digital savvy and electronic-engineering skills to bring their ideas and designs to life.

Downloading completed code onto a microbit

Here are just a few of the amazing array of products they came up with:

  • A collar to keep tabs on their pet
  • Motion-sensitive light switches
  • A fridge alarm
  • Electronic dice
  • A bedroom-door alarm

For the latter project, the children made an ingenious prototype product out of cardboard and wired it up using a circuit and a microbit. “The problem my product is solving is people invading my privacy,” said the door-alarm team’s project manager, echoing the sentiments of kids everywhere.

The course gave the students the freedom to innovate and the Outreach team were delighted to see them rise to the challenge, using their imaginations and experimenting with technology. Pupils don’t always have the opportunity to engage in this kind of activity, but Outreach programmes hopefully help to convince them that anyone can be an engineer.

Roisin Quinn, the Faculty Engagement Officer who ran the summer school, explains: “a strong partnership between the University of Bristol and Barton Hill Settlement is very important. It’s a neighbourhood where very few young people go on to higher education. We want to raise aspirations, inspire children to take up science and technology and get the message across that university is for everyone. This kind of project is a brilliant way for them to develop skills in teamwork, creativity, entrepreneurship, design and communication. It’s also great fun!”

A fridge-alarm prototype

The initiative is an opportunity for current Bristol students to share their enthusiasm for STEM subjects with their young counterparts, too. Sarah Taylor Knight (Engineering Maths) and Emma Brown (Computer Science and Innovation) were part of the Outreach team, alongside Joe Brown from the Faculty’s teaching staff.

Barton Hill has recently seen the development of a new micro settlement – a social enterprise that encourages entrepreneurship. The University of Bristol Engineering Outreach team are looking forward to bringing more projects like this to the new micro settlement in the coming years and will be renting three containers in the development to work alongside refugee and community-focused businesses.

By connecting with a diverse community of people, the University hopes its Outreach projects and presence in the community will help inspire entrepreneurs and engineers from all backgrounds.