Greenhead College Alumna Cerys Jones studied Sociology at Durham University, where she founded the 93% club, a student-led initiative to help state-school educated students go on to study at the top universities.
We put Cerys on the spot to find out more..
When did you come to Greenhead College and what did you study?
I was at Greenhead College from 2014-2016. I studied Modern History, Sociology, and Law.
What support did you receive whilst at Greenhead?
I received incredible academic support whilst at Greenhead! I personally did not need to access internal counselling services whilst at Greenhead, but I can say that the academic support was of an exceptional standard. Without the vital support of staff at GHC I would not have believed in my own abilities and studied at Durham University.
Can you tell us about the 93% club, what it is and why you set it up?
Durham University, the same as Oxbridge and other elite institutions like Bristol, have a reputation for attracting privately educated students, and that is because they do! Arriving at Durham, I found myself suffering from imposter syndrome: constantly regarding myself as incapable of being at a top university. However, I was not the only student struggling with this aspect of Durham. 93% of students in the UK are state-educated, however, Durham’s recent academic intake had only a 63% composition of state-educated students (of which those educated at Comprehensive schools is not even disclosed). Therefore, myself and Fran Walker discovered the 93% Club at Bristol University. As such, we decided to bring our own sister society to Durham which promoted access and inclusivity of state-educated students at elite institutions.
Alongside my selected executive committee, I sought to engage with university faculty to amend university policy in order to better include state students. The 93% Club aims to help current students navigate university life and find employment after graduation. With CV advice, LinkedIn profile workshops, panel talks and more, the 93% Club aims to equip state educated students with the same skills as those who are privately educated.
What advice would you give to students from state schools who are aspiring to study at a top university?
You are just as good as your privately educated counterparts, if not better. Coming from a state school is something to be proud of, and something that you should wear as a badge of honor at top universities. Oxbridge, Durham, and other Russell Group universities do have lots of ‘posh’ students, but you are just as intelligent as them, and as such, your place at that university is just as valid. If you ever feel as though you ‘do not belong’, just remind yourself that there are thousands of other state school students who feel the same. Even if your university does not have a 93% Club, contact the society at either Bristol, Durham, or UCL and any members of the committee would be happy to help – whether personally or professionally.
Now you have graduated, what are your plans for the future, and how does the 93% club fit into this?
After graduating with a BA in Sociology from Durham, I was supposed to be undertaking a Masters in Law this September (2019). However, having been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder whilst at University, I have decided to take some time away from education and instead undertake some administration work in the local area. In the future – maybe next year – I will consider doing my Masters part time. In regards to the 93% Club, I will always be a part of the 93%. State-school pride is something I will always have, and with the 93% Club being such an intrinsic part of my university experience, I don’t think I will ever be able to leave it behind. I hope to be able to travel to various state schools and inspire other state-educated students to go to top universities, whether that be by providing insight about Durham as an institution, or by being a mentor for those who aspire to attend Durham. I want all state-educated students to understand that they are just as capable as their privately educated peers.
For more information on Cerys and the 93% club, please visit https://thetab.com/uk/durham/2018/11/02/meet-the-93-club-the-student-group-aiming-to-level-the-playing-field-for-state-school-kids-at-durham-42767.