Press release

New award to raise university aspirations of all pupils

A new national award scheme will reward high achieving secondary school pupils in England.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Schools Minister Nick Gibb today announced a new national award scheme to recognise the top achievers in every secondary school in England - and those showing great potential.

He said that the ‘Dux’ - Latin for leader or champion - would help raise the aspirations of all pupils, including those from less affluent backgrounds, to go to university, including our top higher education institutions. A similar scheme, also called Dux, already exists in schools in Scotland.

The award, open to all maintained secondary schools, will see teachers selecting a Year 9 pupil as their Dux. They will be rewarded with a visit to one of the 20 current Russell Group universities.

The Russell Group represents leading UK universities which are committed to maintaining high-quality research, outstanding teaching and education, and excellent links with business and the public sector.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

This is an opportunity for schools to celebrate success, and to develop and reward high performing pupils.

Teachers may decide to choose pupils who might not be at the top of the class but who have outstanding potential to become high achievers. These could include children whose families may traditionally not have gone to higher education. They may wrongly assume that university is something ‘other people’ do.

Visiting any of these great educational institutions, and seeing first-hand the possibilities that exist there, will open pupils’ eyes to an exciting world in which they can not only take part, but thrive.

Nick Gibb added:

Our world-class universities are for all those with good qualifications and real promise - not just the few. They already do a great deal to increase access to higher education and run extensive outreach programmes offering a wide range of opportunities for school pupils.

This is about ensuring that schools are playing their part in promoting excellence and in supporting pupils, including from disadvantaged backgrounds, to aim for prestigious universities.

I am delighted that so many leading universities are committed to the programme.

Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, said:

Russell Group universities already pump millions into a range of schemes to attract young people from non-traditional backgrounds. Many of our universities run successful summer schools and work with local schools - including those where there is little history of pupils progressing to research-intensive universities.

Too few pupils from some state schools get the right grades in the right subjects to apply to leading universities but there is also evidence that even with good grades state school students are much less likely to apply to top universities than those at equivalent independent schools. So we hope this scheme will help raise the aspirations not only of Dux winners but all other bright teenagers at their schools and make sure they are thinking about their options at a younger age.

We are delighted to be offering bright prospective students the opportunity to come and meet our students and lecturers and have taster sessions. All of our universities look forward to welcoming the winners and their teachers and helping to build long term working relationships so that all young people - whatever their background or school type - know that a Russell Group university could be within their grasp.

We’re ready to offer all top achievers - whether or not they win the Dux - the chance of a place: we need their teachers or advisors to persuade them to apply. Wherever you’re from, with the right grades, attitude and potential, you have a good chance of getting into a Russell Group university. So if there are pupils out there who don’t manage to win but are still interested we would urge them to find out about general open days and other activities for school pupils’ on university websites.

Similar awards already exist in a number of other countries, including Scotland, Australia, New Zealand and the US.

Case study

At Imperial College London, Dux prize winners will be given the chance to take part in three activities around the future of energy. They will work with current students and researchers on carbon capture and storage solutions, explore fuel cell technology that could power high-performance low-emission cars, and experiment with new solar cell technology that could make solar energy cheap and accessible for all. Prize winners will then come together to discuss how the science, technology and engineering activities they have been working with can help deal with climate change and energy sustainability.

Notes to editors

  1. Further details of the Dux Award can be found on the Department’s website. Registration will then open immediately after the Easter break on Monday 16 April 2012.

  2. The Russell Group’s current 20 members are Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Imperial College London, King’s College London, Leeds, Liverpool, London School of Economics & Political Science, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Queen’s University Belfast, Sheffield, Southampton, University College London and Warwick. More details can be found on the Russell Group website. The Russell Group is expanding to include the universities of Durham, Exeter, Queen Mary and York.

  3. Last year the Russell Group published Informed Choices which gives guidance to teachers and students about how A level subject choice can affect university options. In addition its members are also very clear about preferred subjects.

  4. In 2015-16 the £28.8million which Russell Group Universities will spend on outreach measures will be used to support numerous summer schools, open days, special entry routes and access programmes to give students from lower socio-economic groups the best possible chance of winning a place. See the Russell Group website for more details of outreach activities and initiatives undertaken by Russell Group universities.

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Published 15 March 2012