Pembroke Participates in Ground-Breaking Partnership to Improve Life Chances for Young People in Rochdale


As part of Pembroke’s ongoing partnership with Rochdale Development Agency, a sustained academic engagement programme has been launched in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. This is a ground-breaking university access initiative, an extraordinary coalition – made up of Pembroke College, Oxford; the University of Cambridge; St John’s College, Cambridge; Rochdale Sixth Form College; The Altus Education Partnership; Rochdale Council and Rochdale Development Agency – to bridge the gap between untapped potential in Rochdale and the world-class education found at Oxford and Cambridge.

The Atom Valley Education Challenge Consortium (AVECC) will build on existing long-term strategic relationships to deliver a programme of sustained academic engagement for the brightest young minds, initially focused on the borough of Rochdale. However, those behind the initiative are committed to a long-term vision to ultimately develop a blueprint that other regions in the UK can learn from. Representatives from each institution, including Pembroke Access Fellow Dr Peter Claus, Academic Director Dr Nicholas Cole, and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, gathered to launch the initiative.

(L-R Standing) Mr Richard Partington Senior Tutor St John’s College, Cambridge; Mr Richard Ronksley CEO Altus Education Partnership; Mr Karl Smith Principal Rochdale Sixth Form College (L-R Seated) Councillor Neil Emmott Leader of Rochdale Borough Council; Professor Debbie Prentice Vice Chancellor University of Cambridge; Dr Nicholas Cole Senior Tutor Pembroke College, Oxford
(L-R Standing) Mr Richard Partington, Senior Tutor, St John’s College, Cambridge; Mr Richard Ronksley, CEO Altus Education Partnership; Mr Karl Smith, Principal, Rochdale Sixth Form College
(L-R Seated) Councillor Neil Emmott, Leader of Rochdale Borough Council; Professor Debbie Prentice, Vice Chancellor, University of Cambridge; Dr Nicholas Cole, Academic Director, Pembroke College, Oxford

The AVECC aims to give all those with the necessary academic talent the opportunity to benefit from the unique mixture of tradition and innovation to be found at Oxford and Cambridge. The project intends to create a continuous “pipeline” that identifies and selects the brightest young minds, those with academic potential, especially without any knowledge of university experience within their family, from primary school through to post-16. Students on the initiative will be supported by dedicated events to achieve the necessary academic outcomes to first achieve an Oxbridge place, and then thrive when they get there.

Rochdale Sixth Form Principal, Karl Smith, expressed his enthusiasm for the programme, which he said "represents a landmark moment for Rochdale Sixth Form College, Altus Educational Partnership and the wider Rochdale community."

"This historic partnership will ensure that students at RSFC will receive unparalleled guidance and support from tutors hailing from Cambridge and Oxford Universities and will empower our students to further strive for academic excellence and unlock their full potential.”

Sir Ernest Ryder, Master of Pembroke College, shared: “In its 400th year Pembroke College is proud to celebrate its strong access and outreach work with schools and colleges in Rochdale, Greater Manchester and across the North West. For more than 10 years, we have been helping our brightest students to develop their confidence and skills to go to the university of their choice. We are delighted to welcome many of them to Oxford. This is an inspirational collaboration that we hope will become a model for others, building on a collaboration that brings the public and private sectors together in our common purpose of advancing knowledge and identifying those who will serve our communities well in the future.”

The coalition will play a major role in contributing towards the vision of the Atom Valley Mayoral Development Zone which has set out to support developing a cluster of high quality, innovative businesses across three development sites in Bury, Oldham and Rochdale which will create 20,000 new jobs and 7,000 new homes through a unique public-private partnership.

The programme will be embedded in Rochdale and Atom Valley, drawing on expertise held locally and across Oxford and Cambridge to give students a richer learning experience than the traditional Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) approaches.

The Atom Valley Education Consortium.
The Atom Valley Education Consortium, made up of the University of Cambridge; St John’s College, Cambridge; Pembroke College, Oxford; Rochdale Sixth Form College; The Altus Trust; Rochdale Council and Rochdale Development Agency.

Dr Nicholas Cole, Pembroke's Academic Director, added: “Pembroke College has been working in this region with a range of schools for many years, and students who have joined Pembroke as undergraduates after taking part in our access scheme have brought an enormous amount of talent to the College, to Oxford and Cambridge, and to other leading universities. They have achieved to the highest level. We have always aimed to be collaborative in our approach and are delighted to be able to launch this next stage of our work with this broader range of partner institutions.”

Chris Dobbs, Director of AVECC, stated: "I am delighted to be leading this exciting project. Having taught in Rochdale for the past 20 years, I know that there are many talented young people throughout this borough and in other places just like Rochdale. I believe this project is going to provide them opportunities to study at world leading universities which hitherto have not existed."

Partners within the consortium will collaborate to deliver sustained programmes within the Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale, with plans to expand operational activities to other areas within Atom Valley, Greater Manchester, and nationally. The initiative will encompass engagement across various age groups, from primary education to employment, fostering long-term cultural and academic change within schools and colleges.