Academic Lecture

Cambridge Dream’s summer programmes have a strong academic focus. On average, evidence suggests that pupils who attend a summer school make approximately two additional months’ progress compared to similar pupils who to do not. Greater impacts (as much as four additional months’ progress) can be achieved when summer schools are intensive, well-resourced, and involve small group tuition by trained and experienced teachers (source:

Every Cambridge Dream programme draws on the uniquely rich academic traditions of education in England’s best schools and universities. The aim is to draw out each individual student’s personal talents and help them fulfil their academic potential.

Before the Programme

During registration, applicants will be asked to choose a subject from a choice of 4 specialist subject areas:

  • Business, Economics and Law
  • Medicine
  • AI and Computer Science
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)

Before they arrive, they will be assigned to subject-specific classes taught by our course tutors and they will be teamed with a Cambridge undergraduate or graduate studying this subject at degree level.

Before the programme commences, teaching resources are provided to enable students to become familiar with some of the key lesson content and to learn relevant key vocabulary if necessary. Students will also be asked to write a short personal statement before they arrive to ensure that they have a draft to work on during the course. This will ensure they are well prepared and can gain the maximum benefits from attending the course.

During the Programme

During the programme, learners benefit from high-quality tuition by our course tutors, who are experienced teachers with UK degrees and professional teaching qualifications. Many of our teachers have Masters or PHDs from Cambridge, Oxford or other top ranking universities. The students can also enjoy traditional Cambridge lectures in a range of exciting topics by experts who are renowned in their field.

We are privileged, for example, to have Cambridge’s world-famous marine biologist, Dr Helen Scales, as one of our science lecturers. Helen has worked as a conservationist for the World Wide Fund for Nature and the World Conservation Union, specialising in coral reef conservation and the global trade in endangered marine species. She has written three books about the oceans, Poseidon’s Steed, the story of seahorses from myth to reality (2010), Spirals in Time, the secret life and curious afterlife of seashells (2015) and Eye of the Shoal, The fishwatcher’s guide to life, the ocean and everything (2017). Most recently, she published 11 Explorations into Life on Earth with a Foreword by Sir David Attenborough. Each chapter features one of the Royal Institution’s Christmas Lectures, past and present, that explores the wonders of the living world.

Helen also makes documentaries for BBC radio about the oceans, including The Life Sub Aquatic, about the dream of living underwater, and Inside the Shark’s Mind. She presented the Naked Oceans podcast for two years. For her PhD at Cambridge’s Department of Zoology, she studied the impacts of fishing large, colourful coral reef fish including groupers and humphead wrasse. As an undergraduate, Helen studied Natural Sciences at St John’s College, Cambridge.

Other lecturers in our team include award-winning VR and AI expert Dr. Bang Ming Yong,  who teaches engineering and innovation programs at Cambridge University and is Deputy Director of one of the university’s innovation programs – i-teams, as well as being the founding President of the Cambridge VR/AR society.  For his PhD at Cambridge University’s Department of Engineering, Dr. Bang researched the growth of technology-based social enterprises in Cambridge. He is a fellow of Churchill College at Cambridge University and is advising the college in VR and digital technologies for a new creative facility for students.

Dr. Bang also runs a VR game software development company in Cambridge which has recently won an award (People’s Choice Award) at Develop:Brighton 2023, the UK’s largest game developer conference ( He is working with expert veterinarians to build a fantasy creature veterinarian simulator and building the AI that goes into the creatures.

In addition, our student mentors will lead supervisions (small subject-specific class discussions) which give our course participants a taste of Oxbridge’s unique style of teaching. The supervisions cover academic topics relating to the subjects which the mentors are currently studying at Cambridge.

At the End of the Programme

At the end of the course, there is a formal presentation ceremony, when every student receives a certificate of attendance. Special awards are presented to the students who have demonstrated the most commitment and made the greatest progress during the course.

Every student will take away:

  • A personalised evaluation report with comments from the teachers and the summer school principal.
  • A personal statement (16-18 years only) written with the guidance of their student mentors.
  • A graded reading list (16-18 years only) for the subject they are most interested in studying at university.
  • A Personal Development Plan and Profile-Building worksheet (16-18 years only; see below for more details).

After the Programme

Studying at a world-class university is intellectually demanding and places great emphasis on independent learning. Throughout the course, older students (16-18 years) work on a Personal Development Plan and a Profile-Building worksheet, which they can continue to develop after returning home. These will help students to become self-directed, reflective learners who are more likely to progress to higher levels of academic attainment.

The Personal Development Plan includes:

  • A statement of their individual aspirations, values and strengths.
  • An evaluation of the life choices they are considering (A-level subjects, universities, degree courses, countries, careers).
  • The academic and non-academic requirements and deadlines they may need to adhere to.
  • The skills and knowledge they have developed during the programme.
  • The areas they need to work on.
  • SMART objectives and an action plan to achieve these.
  • The resources required to realise their plan.
  • Measures of progress.

The Profile-Building worksheet is a tool which students use to keep a record of the various activities they are undertaking in the years and months leading up to their applications, such as entering competitions, gaining awards, wider reading, research, work experience and volunteering, all of which provide a useful focus for writing their personal statements.

During this residential course in Cambridge, students will acquire the transferable skills which are essential for academic and career success in the 21st century.

Laura Davies, BA (Hons), MA (Cantab), Programme Director