Reaching for Russell Group: My Journey to Durham University

By Lucy Jameson

Hello! I’m Lucy, a first-year student studying History at Durham University.


I want to share with you my experience becoming a Durham University student, particularly as a working-class local.

I have lived in the North East my whole life - Durham is practically on my doorstep. I had known for a long time that I wanted to study History, but I often doubted my ability to achieve good enough results to get into Durham.

In 2017 I first heard about Supported Progression, a scheme for local children from state schools living in socio-economically deprived areas, who were the first in their immediate family to go to university. I applied and was fortunate enough to be accepted for the 2018 program. I attended two residentials and for the final assessment I wrote a 2,000-word essay on the Sexual Revolution. Passing the assessment enabled me to be lucky enough to receive a guaranteed conditional offer before I applied by UCAS, and a lowered grade requirement of AAB.


However, during exam season I ended up getting a pretty nasty case of mumps in May half term. This of course somewhat affected my ability in my exams and capability to revise as I was exhausted and in pain, and with 6 exams after May half term, 3 of which being in the first 3 days back, I felt completely hopeless. I believed all the hard work I’d put in for years had been wasted. I truly thought I had ruined the one opportunity I had been given to study at my dream university.


On results day, I cried so much when I realised I was going to be studying at Durham a month later. When I went to collect my results, I had actually missed my offer by 1 mark. I achieved an A* in History, a B in English Literature and a B in Law. I was worried I didn’t deserve my place, that I had been given my place to fit a quota, and that my peers would think I shouldn’t be studying alongside them when I had even failed to achieve my lowered offer. However, all my friends have been incredibly supportive and never judged me for my background or route into HE. I was lucky enough to be roommates with a lovely local student who had also come to Durham through SP, which made me feel so much better.


Please don’t be put off from coming to universities like Durham if you are from a similar background to myself. Universities need amazing people like you, and you deserve your university place as much as anybody else. If you’d like to see my experience as a first year, please come across to my Instagram account, ‘lucyatdurham’ for more!

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