A reoccurring feature of student feedback received by Cife colleges is that students value the lack of a Glass Ceiling regarding their aspirations and potential achievements. The expression Glass Ceiling emerged in the late 1980s and was used in an academic paper by A.M. Morrison who examined the persistent failure of women to climb the corporate ladder thus revealing the institutional and societal discrimination that many women experienced. Whilst remaining respectful to this theory regarding barriers to progression Cife students have tapped into their fertile imaginations to put forward a different meaning behind the use of the term Glass Ceiling.

Prior to joining a Cife college many students have explained that those students who received the most attention at their former school were the Oxbridge students and the medical and dental students. Students falling outside of this ‘club’ were given the distinct impression that there was a limit on what could be achieved, and a form of Glass Ceiling was erected.

At Cife there is no such Glass Ceiling. All students regardless of whether they are Oxbridge students or not are treated like elite students. There is no cap on how far Cife colleges will go to try and get the best from every one of its students.

Without question one of finest compliments that I have ever received during my time in education was working with a student who put forward his own interpretation of the Glass Ceiling theory. The student in question obtained three A grades and is now reading Law at a leading Russell Group university. He joined us with low self-confidence despite in our eyes being immensely talented.

Since discovering this interpretation of the Glass Ceiling theory my eyes have been further opened to the tremendous work and achievements taking place across the Cife sector. Observing the annual awards ceremony at the House of Lords encapsulates the distance travelled by all of our students and in addition to the headline awards regarding academic excellence it is motivating to see students pick up awards regarding the value added performance a particular Cife college has brought.

This means that Cife colleges are able to work with students who sometimes start at a position of considerable academic disadvantage and help them achieve results they did not think were possible.

At the same time Cife colleges consistently demonstrate that they can also get the best from their more overt high-flying students by obtaining copious offers for Oxbridge, Dental and Medical School. For a relatively small collection of colleges Cife punches well above its weight!

Perhaps the secret of success is that Cife colleges treat all of its students as an elite student. There are no hidden agendas and we expect our students to work hard because we believe they can achieve special things.

By coming to study at a Cife college a student enters into an agreement in which they will be treated with respect and dignity, an agreement in which they will receive more support than they have previously received and yet each student agrees to work harder than they have ever worked before. We have a unique culture which is geared to success and students are able to progress without the hindrance of a Glass Ceiling.


This article was written by Mark Shingleton, Principal, MPW Birmingham

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