The Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) is a course that enables students to plan, manage and deliver a piece of independent research related to their own academic interests. Following the Edexcel specification, students can choose from four exciting project pathways. The most common type of research chosen is the dissertation, in which students participate in library-based research to support the production of a 6,000 word written analysis. Those eager to take their own measurements and collect data can complete an investigation, supported by the Concord Research Lab. Students who would like to turn their research into a practical outcome, such as an architectural model or an engineering design, can complete an artefact. Finally, the performance pathway is available for students who choose their project outcome to be a musical concert, drama production or poetry recital.
Ten members of staff currently supervise EPQ projects, from a wide range of academic disciplines. Between 40 and 50 students typically research for an EPQ each year. Although taught very differently, the EPQ is worth the equivalent of an AS Level and is therefore timetabled accordingly. Students can expect to have up to four timetabled lessons of EPQ each week. They deliver an assessed presentation and submit a final project report at the end of their period of research. Both of these elements contribute to a final mark and it is graded from A* to E. In 2016, over 70% of the completed projects were awarded an A* grade. It should be noted that the EPQ is a significant additional academic commitment alongside a set of A Level subjects, so the college is selective on the basis of which students are best suited to the programme.
Although it is rare for an EPQ grade to be included in a university offer, top universities have been unanimous in their support for the qualification. The primary benefit is to encourage students to manage their academic studies in a way that would support their undergraduate studies. Universities are becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of independent research skills being shown by students as they enter higher education. The EPQ aims to address this, providing candidates with the opportunity to read independently, reference their work appropriately, synthesise contrasting viewpoints and stretch their knowledge beyond A Level. Such skills will undoubtedly make the transition to university a smoother one.