Levelling Up: Physics – apply now
We are excited to be able to offer under-represented sixth-form students the opportunity to take part in our support programme designed to prepare them for studying physics at university.
Levelling Up: Physics is an academic and pastoral support programme, supporting students from under-represented backgrounds who are aiming to pursue the study of physics at university. The IOP is leading and managing the pilot programme in collaboration with our partner universities: Durham University, the University of Birmingham and the University of Oxford.
We are excited to be able to offer sixth-form students the opportunity to take part in a variety of subject-specific tutorials, mentoring sessions, guest lectures and activities (all online) designed to prepare them for university study and to help make sure they are ready to apply for and succeed in higher education.
Participants will get a taste of what it is like to be a part of their host university, through regular contact with mentors and academics from physics and other related subject departments.
The project will be a fun, encouraging and intellectually stimulating introduction to studying at university whilst directly supporting A-level studies.
This is part of a wider initiative and there are parallel programmes running in mathematics and chemistry too. The London Mathematical Society is supporting the maths programme, and Durham University is supporting the chemistry programme. Information about the thinking behind the project is at Levelling Up: STEM.
An evaluation of the pilot programme is being conducted by the School of Education at Durham University.
The evaluation is seeking to understand the successes, challenges and/or barriers in the implementation of the Levelling Up pilot. It will also investigate the impact for student participants, including how much students from different backgrounds have benefitted from participating in the programme.
How does the physics programme work?
There are three main aspects of the programme:
- Academic tuition and support to stretch and challenge students in their physics studies;
- Mentoring and support to develop the skills required to successfully apply for and succeed in higher education; and
- Finding out more about the academic community at university so students know what to expect when they begin post-A-level study.
Academic tuition and support
Students will receive high-quality materials and a structured study programme consisting of self-study problems followed by a one-hour tutorial with up to six other students and a tutor.
The programme runs across years 12 and 13 and covers a range of different topics designed to align with (but not replace) A-level courses. Students will also learn about real-life applications of the science and links to research.
Mentoring and support
Students will receive small group mentor sessions, these provide opportunities to discuss university life, university applications and provide a supportive environment where they can address any concerns about their studies.
There will also be the opportunity for an onsite or virtual visit (based on COVID-19 restrictions), to include a tour of the university’s physics department.
Online guest lectures, given by renowned academics, in a range of science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) subjects will provide information of many different aspects and applications of a wide range of STEM careers.
Finding out more about the academic community
Students will have the opportunity to get to know and work with members of the university community including their mentors and guest lecturers.
Who can apply?
The project is open to current year-12 students in England who are studying physics AND maths at A-level (or equivalent), are considering studying physics at university and meet the eligibility criteria outlined below.
All applicants should be interested in finding out more about studying a STEM subject at university and finding out about what the university has to offer.
As places are limited and highly sought-after, we will use the eligibility and selection criteria to help us identify those applicants who we feel will benefit the most from the programme.
See each partner university’s criteria.
- Durham University – eligibility criteria
- The University of Birmingham – eligibility criteria (coming soon)
- The University of Oxford – eligibility criteria (coming soon)
What can students expect?
In the year 2021/22 the physics programmes will be taking place at Durham University, the University of Birmingham and the University of Oxford. Ideally students should apply to the university closest to them, however each application will be considered on a case-by-case basis so if the student is already planning to apply to one of these specific universities IOP can try and allocate students a place on their programme.
Upon successful placement on the programme, students will be allocated:
- A tutorial group (approximately six students per group);
- A Programme Tutor (with experience of tutoring A-level physics students); and
- A Programme Support Mentor (a current student at university).
Following an online introductory session in February 2021, there will be a weekly programme of activities. These vary slightly to fit term times and exams but will roughly follow the pattern of:
In week one students might spend 30-90 minutes on self-study materials – like some problems, puzzles or background reading to prepare for their tutorial.
These self-study weeks will be followed by a one-hour online tutorial the following week where students can discuss the topic in more detail.
Some weeks there will be a mentor session when the students can get together as a group to talk about different topics related to university life and discuss any questions or concerns they might have.
It is therefore desirable that the student is able to commit an average of one hour per week to the programme.
The programme will start in February 2021 and will run throughout school term times until June 2022.
The University of Birmingham
How to apply
Students should check the eligibility criteria and then follow the link to the programme they would like to apply for. If students want to be considered for more than one partner university, they do not need to apply to more than one but should indicate on their application their preferred choices.
If students need any help with completing application forms, they could ask their physics (or another) teacher or please contact us.
Deadlines for applications
Durham University: Applications now open. Deadline for applications: midday on Sunday 14 February 2021.
Programme launch: March 2021.
The University of Birmingham: Applications opening late February 2021.
Programme launch: w/c 22 March 2021.
The University of Oxford: Applications opening late February 2021.
Programme launch: w/c 22 March 2021.
If students can foresee that this schedule is going to be a problem for them, please get in touch so we can provide support.
Further information and contact details please email:
We plan to involve more universities in future years. If you are a university that offers undergraduate physics and would like to find out more, please get in touch.