Villiers Park Educational Trust – Inspiring Excellence Programme


Available to all UK students, aged 16 to 19, who are capable of achieving an A or A* in a relevant subject at A level.

Over 430 schools and colleges are registered to send students on Inspiring Excellence Programme courses, but they are open to all UK post-16 students. To date, almost 26,000 students have attended an Inspiring Excellence Programme course.


To introduce talented A level students to undergraduate level material, to develop a passion for learning, to challenge and inspire them to maximise their attainment, raise aspirations to access university, and thrive once there.

By working with students from different backgrounds, school type and geographical region they can gain a real taste of what university life and study will entail.

Education context

Villiers Park Educational Trust is a UK charity that empowers talented students from across the UK to develop a passion for learning, and the study and life skills to ensure they reach their full academic potential.

The Inspiring Excellence Programme is a series of 32 five-day subject-specific residential courses held at the Villiers Park Educational Trust centre in Foxton, Cambridgeshire. The courses are aimed at A level students who are capable of achieving an A or A* in a particular subject which they are intending to study at university.

Awarding providers
  • Villiers Park Educational Trust

A challenging, transformational, five-day subject-specific residential course, using informal seminars, university style lectures, workshops, group work, individual study, research, a relevant external visit, and culminates in a presentation based on the course theme to the rest of the participants, tutors and Villiers Park staff. Working day often covers 09:00 to 22:00 to include working on individual projects.

Subject areas

32 courses, cover 19 subjects, including most mainstream A level subjects (e.g. STEM, humanities, and languages) and some career-based areas (e.g. law, engineering, and the built environment).

Other skill areas covered include:

  • written and verbal communication
  • presentation
  • research
  • team work
  • independent study
  • confidence
  • passion for learning and a particular subject
  • self-motivation

Key Stage 5, Year 12 or Year 13


Certificate of attendance on completion of the course.


No formal assessment, although a presentation to tutors and fellow students on day five reflects the progress made during the course.

Contribution of assessment components to overall grade

No formal assessment, although a presentation to tutors and fellow students on day five reflects the progress made during the course.

Programme size

Approximately 25 students per course, 32 courses per year, i.e. about 800 students per academic year undertake a five-day residential course, each day is approximately 09:00 to 22:00. To date almost 26,000 students have participated in the programme.

Key issues for UK HE admissions

The programme prepares students for HE study through the development of key subject-specific knowledge that goes beyond the A level syllabus.

The programme develops a passion for the subject and the key academic and personal skills needed to succeed e.g. independent study, team building, research, presentation, an understanding of the requirements of university life and study, and the ability to mix with like-minded students from across the UK.

Timing of assessments and results

The courses run throughout the academic year, the assessment takes place on the last day of each five-day course.

Qualification dates notes

This award is current – the programme has been running for over 50 years.

Certification information

At the end of each five-day course, Villiers Park Educational Trust produces a certificate for every student that has completed it. The certificate is not graded.

Progression information

This course is stand-alone. However, the expectation is that the students will progress to university, and in 2016 87% gained a place at university, 76% at a leading university, and a further 9% were taking a gap year.

It is hoped that student alumni will take up the offer of a free Career Mentor whilst they are undergraduates to help them into a career on graduation. In addition, a number of alumni volunteer as e-mentors for the Scholars Programme.

Further information

The course work and materials are degree level to give the students their first experience of, and insight into, what university life and study is like. Each course has two tutors, who are usually postgraduates and experts in their field, who introduce the participants to the latest ideas and research, allowing students to explore challenging topics. The courses include a guest speaker and a relevant visit.

The impact of the programme continues beyond the five-day course as it increases motivation and a passion for learning. Villiers Park also asks that students return to their schools and colleges as Ambassadors, sharing what they learnt and their new skills to benefit their peers.

Further information, including a short film, is available here: