University Preparation and Careers

Ashbourne students receive expert guidance and support to help them find the right degree course or career pathway that bests suits their ambitions and potential.

Ashbourne careers programme

At Ashbourne we work closely with every student to help them create an individual education programme that best reflects their passions and aptitude so they can build the confidence they need to succeed in their A levels and pursue the right career pathway.

Head of Sixth Form, Sean Pillai, oversees Ashbourne’s career development strategy, including individually tailored university programmes, with Personal Tutors and Careers and Events Officer Catherine Tang. It is designed to help prepare students for a variety of post-A level options such as university entrance, degree apprenticeships, foundation courses, internships and direct employment.

The majority of our students go on to further education with almost 60% of our graduates gaining places at top UK Russell Group universities.

Ashbourne’s careers programme is designed in accordance with the eight GATSBY Benchmarks below and aims to offer each student the support and guidance necessary to develop their own university or career pathway.

“Pupils are well prepared for the next stage in their education. They receive expert and individual guidance. Students in Year 13 have a tutor dedicated to the university application process. This helps them gain places at top universities.”

Outstanding, Ofsted Report 2021

Specialist university programmes

Ashbourne runs specialist university entrance programmes for students intending to apply to competitive universities and degree courses including Oxbridge, Medical School, Engineering, Finance and Art & Design.

Lilian is studying Medicine at King’s College London. She graduated from Ashbourne’s Medical School Programme with Biology A, Chemistry A and Mathematics A*.

What attracted me to Ashbourne was the small class sizes and how personal everything felt between you and your teacher. The Medical School Programme gave me the skills and tols I needed to go into the interview and to write a good personal statement.

Career and UCAS guidance

Every A level student has a dedicated Personal Tutor who offers university and careers advice and guidance to support them throughout their time at the college. GCSE students take part in weekly PSHEE sessions that incorporate careers advice and skills development.

A level students

Year 12 students meet with their Personal Tutor weekly in groups. During these sessions they explore the labour market, career options, further education pathways and develop a wide range of skills to help them navigate their future successfully. Sessions include:

Job market analysis, e.g. sector-by-sector trends, earning capacity, vacancies, forecasting, potential obstacles

Exploring career pathways, e.g. university, trainee and degree apprenticeships, entry-level jobs, gaps years

University and course research

CV writing workshops

Interview technique workshops

Mock interviews

Work experience placements

Volunteering opportunities

By the end of Year 12 all students will have written a draft Personal Statement, completed the administrative elements of their UCAS application, e.g. personal details and previous results, and developed a programme of super-curricular activities they will undertake over the summer to enhance their university application.

In Year 13, each student meets regularly with a UCAS tutor who specialises in their chosen subject area to help them complete and submit their final university application. These students also have opportunities to meet with the careers officer for support and guidance and can arrange to do practice interviews with Sean Pillai.

GCSE students

Ashbourne GCSE students typically go on to study A levels at the college. During Year 11 they take part in weekly sessions that explore career pathways, the job market and skills. They are also introduced to the A level subject choices on offer at Ashbourne.

Job market analysis
Exploring career pathways, e.g. A levels, T-levels, trainee apprenticeships, trainee jobs
Presentation skills
CV writing workshops
Interview technique workshops
Work experience opportunities

A level taster days

Year 11 students are offered the chance to try out A level subjects before choosing which combination to study at Ashbourne. The college organises three open evenings with talks to introduce students to new subjects and to meet teachers.

IELTS programme

Ashbourne provides a comprehensive English language programme for international students so they can confidently undertake their academic studies at A level and attain the language proficiency required for all UK universities. Students are timetabled 2-hours per week in a group from the start of year 12.

  • Interactive sessions which prepare students for success in all four sections of the IELTS test: Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing.
  • Preparation to ensure students can access the highest possible band scores required by the most competitive UK universities, also enabling students to meet specific Visa requirements where needed.
  • Students improve their academic English skills, including essay writing, using clear expression in English, improving grammar and spelling and developing the sophistication of their language to access the highest bands across a range of A level subjects.
  • Exposure to a range of different reading and listening sources relating to a variety of different topics, allowing students to improve their general knowledge around British culture – from science and nature to politics or the arts.
  • Option for 1:1 English support sessions, providing a crash course in academic English, for success in IELTS as well as ensuring students have the best possible chance of achieving the highest grades in their A level subjects.
  • Lunchtime English conversation club which provides students with opportunities to practise their English speaking skills, gain confidence in speaking in English, and of course to make friends.

University and careers event

Every year Ashbourne organises a one or two-day event where our students get the opportunity to take part in university and careers-focused workshops and meet with a range of academics and professionals. Top ranking university admissions tutors, including from Imperial College, King’s College, LSE, UCL, UAL, Bristol and Cambridge, are invited to the college to give talks.

Ashbourne also invites guest speakers from a selection of different industries, local and London businesses and Ashbourne alumni to offer our students an insight into their professional field and opportunities for work placements, internships and apprenticeship programmes.

Going into Ashbourne I didn’t think I was capable of getting the grades to attend a good university or end up doing a degree apprenticeship at a firm such as J.P. Morgan. Ashbourne quickly proved to me I was more than capable of achieving whatever I put my mind to.

Harry was offered a Finance Degree Apprenticeship with J.P. Morgan after graduating from Ashbourne.

We also organise an annual university and careers event for Y12 parents so they can support their students in the decisions they make.


Ashbourne embraces local authority initiatives and business partnerships to create career-based opportunities for our students whilst they are studying at Ashbourne. This has included, for example, Ashbourne art students loaning their artwork to local businesses. During Year 12 students will explore and research career initiatives and opportunities that suit their individual goals with their Personal Tutors.

Art on show

Work experience and volunteering

Students will also look into work experience and volunteering opportunities during their Year 12 Personal Tutor sessions that directly relate to their chosen university course or professional pathway. Previous students have undertaken placements at companies such as Barclays, Steelo, LovePR and KCW today.

Hands-on experience introduces students to the world of work and provides a window into the industry they hope to join. It also provides valuable material for students to use in their university applications.

Curricular and supercurricular

Ashbourne teachers integrate activities and material in their lessons that help broaden students’ understanding of how subject knowledge and skills can apply to the real world and particular professions as well as offering a wide range of super curricular activities.

Subject clinics

For many key subjects we run ‘subject clinics’ where students can review topics, discuss new ideas and expand their subject and field knowledge further.


Our mentoring scheme provides Year 13 students with the fantastic opportunity to consolidate what they have learned by teaching to Year 11 and Year 12 students.


Our students are invited to take part in a variety of internal, local and national competitions – e.g. the Ashbourne English Literature competition, the UKMT Maths Challenge, the British Mathematics Olympiad, the British Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad, WJEC Moving Image Awards and the ISA national Drama Award – that stimulate deeper understanding of the subjects but also provide outstanding technical and work experience, particularly in Art, Film and Drama.

Creative arts

We also organise an Ashbourne Creative Arts Events, where students have the chance to perform or exhibit their work, as well as music events at the Warehouse Theatre where students get to hear their own compositions performed by professional musicians.


Many of the wide range of clubs we offer, such as Critical Theory, Astro-particle Physics and Computing, as well as the Extended Project Qualification, provide our students with the opportunity to explore new topics and ideas outside their normal programme of study.

Supercurricular library

Ashbourne has created a supercurricular library that students may dip into so they can expand their knowledge beyond the A level subject syllabus. The library contains carefully selected resources that include books, documentaries and talks as well as work experience opportunities, related free online courses (MOOCS), EPQ topics and more.

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