KEIGHLEY-district pupils are being encouraged to think about applying to elite universities as part of a push to make the institutions more representative.

Verity Mitchell, from Queens' College Cambridge, is now working as schools liaison officer across Bradford.

Her role is to visit schools and encourage more young people to apply to Oxford, Cambridge and other elite universities.

She said there was a "lower than expected" number of young people from the Bradford district attending the institutions, and that often this was down to pupils' low aspirations, rather than academic skills.

Miss Mitchell, 23, said: "Last term I went out to a lot of schools and spoke to students about making their applications and talking them through the interview process.

"You find that a lot of younger students have never thought about applying to these universities, even if they fit the academic profile. It is about making them more aware about what is available and getting them to think a bit wider.

"There are some really good local universities too, but this is about young people looking at all options. We want then thinking about things they haven’t thought about before.

"Some of the young people you speak to locally won’t know anyone who has been to Oxford or Cambridge.

"It is great speaking to them and giving them ideas they may not have considered possible before. They might think they don’t have much of a chance, but we tell them they definitely won’t get in if they don’t apply.

"We’re not saying that everyone should apply to Oxbridge universities, but it is good for them to know they do have that opportunity.

"The aim is to work with as many schools as possible."

Councillor Imran Khan, Bradford Council's executive member for education, employment and skills, said: "We are very pleased to be helping Verity work in Bradford, based at the council, to support students in applying to university.

"Her work can help to raise aspirations, dispel any misconceptions people might have and provide practical advice to young people in the district to help them apply to Oxford, Cambridge and other elite universities.

"We are very happy to be supporting Cambridge and Oxford University in their work encouraging more students from the Bradford district to apply for places. This work could help make a real difference to students’ lives. Whatever their goals, we want our young people to be ambitious and to equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed."