One hundred Year 12 students from across the UK have attended a potentially life-changing event at Murray Edwards College, where they heard from inspiring alumnae and explored their options for the future.


Know yourself, believe in yourself, take your time, be persistent and have fun!

Kate Stephens, Murray Edwards College alumna

Pathways to Success, a two-day aspiration-raising conference, introduces high-achieving students from schools across the UK to students, graduates and staff at Murray Edwards. The event encourages young women to expand their horizons and feel confident about aiming high.

Students representing 25 schools from Derbyshire, Greater Manchester, Lincoln, Coventry, Sheffield, Bournemouth, London and elsewhere were selected to take part in recognition of their impressive academic achievements.  

Now in its fifth year, the event includes seminars on the meaning of success and a practical advice session on applying to the University of Cambridge.

A highlight of the conference was a speech given by alumna Kate Stephens, CEO of Smart Works, a pioneering UK charity which helps women on low incomes to secure jobs and become financially independent by providing interview training and smart clothes. Kate’s down-to-earth advice included

“Know yourself, believe in yourself, take your time, be persistent and have fun!”

Further inspiration came from high-flying educationalist Misbah Arif, a Professional Development Leader at the STEM Education Centre in London and a Professional Tutor on the Teach First programme. Misbah recalled the challenges that she has overcome in her career and "the amazing feeling of discovering what you want to do for the rest of your life." 

Misbah advised her audience not to pander to stereotypes and to “make opportunities for yourself.”

Both speakers explained how their university experience had opened up new opportunities as well as discussing the choices and challenges which they have faced in their careers. Murray Edwards College was founded as New Hall in 1954 to bring more women of outstanding potential to Cambridge.  Kate joined the College in 1993 to read history and Misbah arrived in 1999 to study Biological Natural Sciences. 

Elizabeth Ashcroft, a student at The Priory Academy LSST in Lincoln said “I loved staying in the college with the other girls. The workshops helped me to know that I can aim high and choose what’s best for me in the future.” 

Georgina Botham, a student at Lady Manners School in Bakewell (Derbyshire) said “The speakers were inspirational. It was great to hear that career paths are not linear and you can make opportunities for yourself.” 

Jake Byers, Deputy Director of Post 16 at High Storrs School in Sheffield added “The programme had a good balance of inspiration and practical life tips which everyone found useful. These experiences will serve our students well when they begin making the life-changing decisions about the next stage of their careers.”

Dr Hilarie Bateman, Admissions Tutor at Murray Edwards College said: “Murray Edwards has a proud history of providing education to outstanding young women from all backgrounds and it is a privilege to have these discussions with so many talented sixth formers.”

Schools interested in applying for Pathways to Success 2016 should contact

The University of Cambridge is committed to widening participation both at the University itself and in higher education more generally. In 2013-14, the collegiate University organised 4,000 access events which led to almost 200,000 interactions with school learners and teachers. For more information, visit    

Creative Commons License
The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. For image use please see separate credits above.