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Univ’s Reading Bank update

Collection of book covers from the Univ Reading BankUniv’s Reading Bank has received a significant boost thanks to the efforts of Hannah Armstrong, our School Liaison and Access Officer, and her team of student volunteer reviewers. Together they have reviewed more than 30 new books from across the range of academic disciplines to bring our total to well in excess of 200 titles.

The Reading Bank is an important part of our online Staircase12 information hub for students thinking about applying to top universities; it saw significantly increased use during lockdown and the wider pandemic, and we will continue to grow these resources.

Hannah says of the project and updates:

“Students will often hear that they need to ‘read around their subject’ but knowing where to start can be a real challenge. This is particularly true for students considering starting a completely new subject at university. Thanks to our fantastic team of ambassadors we’re able to offer prospective students over 200 suggestions of books which are engaging, academically stretching, yet pitched at a level accessible to Years 11-13.

“Exploring your subject beyond the school curriculum is so important for students interested in applying to highly selective universities. Not only does it demonstrate important independent learning skills but it also gives students a chance to explore aspects of their subject which aren’t covered at school and helps them to make an informed decision about whether this is the right degree choice for them.

“Our student ambassadors remember what it’s like to be a prospective applicant and are able to share their perspective of which books were formative for them as well as the texts which they wish, in retrospect, they’d known about. Over the past year, online outreach has been more important than ever and it’s in part thanks to our ambassadors that we’re able to offer such extensive digital support.”

One of our reviewers, Connie Bostock (2018, PPE), says:

‘Writing my reviews helped me to reflect on some of the content that I have found most valuable during my degree. It is interesting to contrast the two reviews that I have written, the first as a fresher and the second as a finalist. While there are some clear differences in the reviews, one thing that joins them together is that they both centre the experiences of marginalised groups who are often left behind by our political theorising and action, yet arguably need good politics the most.

“I wish that I had known about the book review bank. As a prospective applicant, it is often difficult to know what exactly it is that you should be reading. From my experience as a student ambassador, many students want to know what it is that the tutors at Oxford want them to be reading. Often prospective students have particular texts in mind, say Mill’s On Liberty or Rousseau’s Social Contract. However, this reading bank shows that a diverse range of texts can be read to achieve insight into one’s prospective degree programme. It also shows that the most important thing is being able to engage with a text – finding what it is that you like about it and using this spark of curiosity to inform what you read (or do) next.”

We hope you enjoy exploring the Univ Reading Bank.

Published: 27 April 2021

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