Since its inception in 2008, Ampleforth College has offered all Sixth Form students the opportunity to undertake an Extended Project Qualification.

An EPQ is a research-based project undertaken on any topic of the student’s choosing: it can be further extension of a subject being studied at A level, a subject area the student wishes to study at university but which is not part of their school curriculum (e.g. Medicine) or simply an area of personal interest unrelated to their other studies. Thus an EPQ is a unique and exciting opportunity for students to manage their own learning.

The Project itself can take several forms. In most cases the student will produce an extended essay of approximately 5,000 words. However, it is also possible for the Project to take the form of an artefact, model or construction, a CD/video/DVD of performances or activities, an audiotape/multimedia presentation or a journal of activities or events. In these cases a report of at least 1,000 words will accompany the Project.

As part of the project, the student must complete a Production Log. This documents the planning and progress of the project, including decision-making and the learner’s reflections on the process. They also deliver a 15-minute Presentation to an invited audience, explaining their Project and answering questions about it.

Projects are undertaken with the assistance of a Supervisor who guides the student at every level, although they are not allowed to contribute directly to its content. The only restriction on choosing a topic for an EPQ is that the student will need to find an accredited Supervisor who has some expertise in the relevant area.

Because an EPQ requires the student to identify and design their own project, adopt a strategic approach to its management and work independently, it is an ideal vehicle for curriculum enrichment and academic extension and is warmly welcomed by universities because it provides evidence of a student’s capacity for independent learning and the development of the very skills they will need to succeed at university. The EPQ also carries UCAS points. 70 UCAS points are awarded to an A*, 60 to an A, 50 to a B, 40 to a C, 30 to a D and 20 to an E.

A glance at the range of completed EPQs by Ampleforth College students shows what a huge range of topics are possible from scientific investigations into the nature of the universe to explorations of popular music culture. At the time of writing there are more than 20 EPQ Projects due for completion in the current academic year.