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To mark American Independence Day, young people participating in the Welsh Government’s Seren programme are celebrating as it’s announced a record number of students will take part in US summer schools this year and nine Seren students will attend top prestigious American universities from this Autumn.

First published:
4 July 2019
Last updated:

This was published under the 2016 to 2021 administration of the Welsh Government

A record number of students – 53 in total – will spend a fortnight this summer at either Yale or Harvard University to get a taste of US university life, with more students from Wales than from any other part of the UK or Europe attending Yale University’s Yale Young Global Scholars programme (YYGS).

Nine Welsh students have also secured places at Yale and Stanford. These students have been supported by the Sutton Trust Programme and have received an average financial aid package of $284,000 (£223,000), which will go towards their travel and living costs.

Last year saw the launch of the partnership with YYGS for 16 students to participate in a summer programme. This year will welcome 30 students in total, with 28 students going to Yale in Connecticut and 2 to the Yale Center in Beijing.

This is the first year a group of Seren students will take part in the Harvard Summer School Pre-College programme which was originally open to 5 applicants from Wales, but the quality and volume of applications meant the programme was expanded to offer 23 places.

In addition, 27 Seren students have been selected by the Sutton Trust to take part in its US programme which is delivered in partnership with the US-UK Fulbright Commission. The programme gives students a one-week visit to the US and provides application support and events to help guide students to study in the US.

All Seren students involved in the US partnerships were welcomed to take part in a huge celebration event in Cardiff Bay to mark the successes of Seren since it was fully established in 2016, namely its growing educational relationship with US universities, the expansion of Seren to students in years 8 – 11 and an increasing number of Welsh students getting offers from Oxbridge.

Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams, who spoke at the event said:

“This year we’re celebrating many Seren achievements as we see the first cohort of students who’ve gone through the full Seren programme begin their next chapter at university.

“Studying overseas can be a life-changing experience and can bring about huge benefits, as I know from my year studying at the University of Missouri. These young ambassadors for Wales will be in a great position to promote Wales and their own quality education to their peers from around the world.

“We have already seen the significant impact of Seren, as more students go on to leading universities, a record number attend US summer schools and a rising numbers of Welsh students attend Oxford and Cambridge. We’ve also seen the confidence, ambition and aspirations of the Seren students grow as they reach their academic potential – be that in Wales, the UK or overseas.”

“So this American Independence Day, a big congratulations and I look forward to this year’s Seren stars earn their stripes at a top American university!”

The Seren programme relies heavily on its partners and works in collaboration with leading universities in Wales and the UK, such as the Modern Foreign Languages pilot with Cardiff University and Oxford University and the Bath University collaboration with Aberystwyth University, which provides Massive Open Online Courses. The programme also works to ensure that the highest achievers are aware of the graduate job opportunities in Wales and they are encouraged to return after their studies.

The success of Seren student and academic exchanges has led to the first ever US-Wales education partnerships with the Fulbright Commission and Gilman International Scholarship Program, ensuring that more US students will come to Wales, securing Wales as a study destination across the US and establishing new research relationships for Welsh universities.

Hosted by broadcaster and Queen’s College alumnus Guto Harri and world-leading expert in entrepreneurship in technology Georgina Campbell Flatter who have volunteered their time, the event in Cardiff Bay welcomed 300 current Seren students and alumni, guests from UK and US universities, as well as local and UK business partners.

Students took part in workshops designed to expand educational interests including talks from Seren alumni, businesses and partners participated in an international networking session with US representatives and an evening reception was held to celebrate the collaboration between the Welsh Government and the University of Oxford. The celebrations culminated in the announcement of record number of Seren students heading to the US through summer school programmes and as undergraduates this year.

Elli Rees from Llanelli, went to Gower College and took part in the Sutton Trust programme. Last year she visited MIT in Boston, Dartmouth College, Smith College, Amherst College and Babson College and talked to students at the Seren event about her experiences. She said: 

“I’m from a small town where nobody really goes to university. Seren has opened up the world to me. It’s helped me gain the courage I needed and helped me realise I can apply to bigger universities that I never expected to be able to. I’ve been able to go on summer schools, including one in America. I was lucky enough to be on the first Yale trip which really opened my horizons. It’s so important to take every opportunity – you have everything to gain. Saying yes to something might seem scary but it’s totally worth it.”

One student attending YYGS this summer is Shauna Hayden from Bishop Grove School. Shauna has a history of mental illness in her family which has made her interested in studying neuroscience. She said:

“Attending the YYGS programme is a dream come true. I never thought that I would be able to do something like this and joining Seren has made it possible. I’m interested in studying either neuroscience research and psychology. The syllabus at YYGS includes a focus on biomedical sciences so I am hoping that it will ultimately help me decide what I want to do. Being part of Seren has really opened doors for me and provided me with opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. It will also help me when I apply for university.”