Aspire Programme

Varndean College provides an extensive range of support and opportunities for students who join the college with high GCSE grades or specific talents. At their interview, students will have the opportunity to discuss the additional programmes and activities available to them.

Recent HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency) statistics show that in 2022, 94.8% of our students studying at Russell Group universities graduated with a First or Upper Second Class honours degree, higher than those students from the independent sector.

To be part of the programme, you must have averaged a GCSE score of 7 and above

Varndean is an excellent choice if you aspire to study at a top university such as Oxford, Cambridge and other Russell Group universities. Our specialist Aspire Programme gives students bespoke one-to-one and group support, from the beginning of your Varndean journey through to your first day at university. You will work with specialist tutors and like-minded peers, and be able to take full advantage of our links with top universities. Here is just some of what we offer:

These are some of the things we offer to ensure that you are in the very best position as an Oxbridge candidate:

  • Early identification during enrolment and Year One.
  • Supporting your super-curricular learning: encouraging you to take your subject knowledge above and beyond the exam syllabus by applying for summer schools, tasters days and masterclasses, competitions and essay prizes.
  • Discussion and debate to sharpen critical thinking skills and develop confidence in pursing your own ideas.
  • Individual support throughout the application process, including writing your personal statement, preparing for pre-admissions assessments and getting ready for interview.
  • Specialist tutors for Oxbridge and Medical/Veterinary Science/Dental applications.
  • Information talks by admissions staff from both Oxford and Cambridge and Brighton & Sussex Medical School.
  • Subject specific enrichment courses, including Med/Vet/Dent, Law Society, Philosophy Society, Politics Society, English Literature Extension Class, Science Olympiad, Maths Extension Class, to ensure that you are in the very best position to compete for places at top universities.

See our Aspire Flyer.


Applying for Medicine, Dentistry or Veterinary Science

The College runs a programme of activities and support for students interested in progressing in the highly competitive fields of medicine, dentistry and veterinary science.

  • We have long established links with the Brighton and Sussex Medical School and students receive practice interviews from their admissions tutors.
  • We arrange for ex-Varndean medical, veterinary and dental students to come in and talk about their experience of the application process and life as an undergraduate.
  • We keep students regularly informed of any events such as conferences and workshops for those preparing to apply for medical/veterinary/dental courses.
  • We advise on and help arrange work experience/volunteering in chosen career areas to add weight to any application and provide evidence of a genuine commitment.
  • We will show students how to keep up to date with current medical/veterinary/ dental ethics issues.
  • We will explain the personal qualities and experience which admissions tutors are looking for and guide you in constructing your personal statement.
  • We will recommend extension activities to support your application and help prepare you for your interview; such as the EPQ and competitions including the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge, RSC's Chemistry Olympiad, RSC's Annual Analyst Competition and STEM Gold CREST Awards.
  • Speakers visit College to talk on current medical, veterinary and dental issues

Subject-Specific Activities and Achievements

Additional activities are provided both within the normal curriculum and beyond.

  • Our Chemistry students take part in the RSC's annual Chemistry Olympiad each year and always finish with an impressive list of awards. In 2019 the College won 2 Bronze, 5 Silver and 2 Gold; in 2020 10 Bronze and 15 Silver; 2021 6 Gold, 9 Silver and 2 Bronze; and in 2022 6 Gold, 4 Silver and 2 Bronze.
  • Students also take part in the RSC's Annual Analytical Competition and have reached the National Final in two out of the last five years.
  • Year One Chemistry students undertake the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge every June and always achieve Gold medals
  • In Biology, two students recently won Gold Crest Awards and one student competed in the 2022 British Biology Olympiad and won silver.
  • All Chemistry students attend the annual Varndean College Chemistry Conference at the University of Brighton. We have presentations ranging from talks on drugs to medical advances to energetics and the enigmatic 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.
  • Students have competed and reached the finals in the University of Reading's 'Heroines in Science' competition, as well as the University of Oxford's Practical Ethics and Responsibility competition.
  • In 2022, one of our students came fourth in the national RSC/QMUL I&D 'Chemists Across the Continents' poster competition.
  • Maths students take part in the “UK Senior Maths Challenge” each year and achieve a range of gold, silver and bronze awards. One student recently achieved a Merit in the Senior Kangaroo Competition and one qualified for the British Maths Olympiad.
  • In 2019 one of our A Level Textiles students won the UK's Knitting and Stitching Show Dressmaking Competition and in 2020 another won the show's 'Self Portrait' competition.
  • Dance and Creative Media students form their own companies; with Dance students devising their own production 'Breaking Boundaries' each year at Brighton's Sallis Benney Theatre.
  • The English Literature Extension class challenges students to read ambitiously beyond the exam syllabus. Many students have either won or been shortlisted for external essay awards, such as Cambridge's Woolf Essay Prize and NCH Essay Competitions and Oxford's Christopher Tower Poetry Competition.