12th December 2019
Cherwell College Oxford is a wholly independent, pre-university college which has managed to maintain the very best the British education system has to offer – the tutorial. Since its establishment, the College has been committed to delivering bespoke educational provision for students aged 12-19 via the quintessentially Oxbridge tutorial method of teaching. Academic programmes are delivered by a combination of one-to-one tutorials, tutorial pairs, small group seminars (3-6), and regular progress tests to monitor academic performance throughout the year. This is by many considered to be unique in the education sector, which has been partly commoditised by global investment companies buying out private schools en masse in the UK, and especially South East England. One may argue about the ethics of viewing educational institutions as a pure investment opportunity, and the value of the ‘product’ they deliver to their students having now being accountable to additional stakeholders, namely big investors.
Cherwell College maintains its position as a tutorial college, despite the general trend amongst other similar institutions moving towards the conventional way of group teaching.
Cherwell College has recently introduced ‘hybrid’ programmes combining the elements of one-to-one tuition/tutorial pairs supported by small groups’ seminars to balance the individual students’ needs with the benefits of greater contact time with subject tutors. This has proved to be the ‘golden middle’ between the two competing systems: the almost extinct tutorial-only system, and conventional secondary school style teaching methods, to deliver the best possible academic results for students. Like the Oxford colleges, Cherwell remains deliberately ‘small but beautiful’ (EF Schumacher), not exceeding an overall number of 100 students in each particular year. Approximately 50 are full-time or weekly boarders, accommodated at the College’s purpose-built students’ residence – Cherwell House, Osney Lane, Oxford.
Despite being a small community where each student is known by name and are on first name terms with their tutors, the students are encouraged to participate in extra-curricular enrichment activities, some of each include:
- Talks by visiting lecturers on a wide range of topics in the Sciences, Literature, Technology, Law, and Politics, delivered both in house and at the university departments;
- Debate workshops; specifically to familiarise students with the Parliamentary debating system led by experienced Oxford Union debaters for Cherwell students;
- Student-led Science Club; to develop and complement the EPQ with presentations on research areas; and
- The DofE Award Scheme; now offered directly at the College as a licensed provider.
Cherwell as a pre-university tutorial college is truly an Oxford college in miniature and will do its utmost to preserve its independence and academic integrity.