Cambridge University tries to plant storylines in top TV shows in bid to shake off elitist image

Cambridge University has resorted to unprecedented tactics in a bid to shed its elitist, stuffy image - by trying to plant story lines in Britain's favourite TV shows.

Dons have already contacted top soaps including EastEnders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale to suggest plot lines that could include the prestigious university.

They have even asked Top Gear to recreate an infamous stunt carried out by engineering students in 1958 when an Austin Seven was winched to the top of the university's 70ft-high Senate House.

Makeover: King's College at Cambridge University, where dons are trying to update its image by planting story lines in soaps and other popular TV shows

Makeover: King's College at Cambridge University, where dons are trying to update its image by planting story lines in soaps and other popular TV shows

Doctor Who was another target, with press officers offering up Cambridge colleges as settings for historical scenes.

A spokesman for the university said the unusual move was part of a campaign to challenge 'myths' about the university before its 800th anniversary next year.

He said: 'It's about challenging myths about studying at Cambridge. People think it's an expensive place to study when in fact, because of short terms and the availability of college accommodation, the bills can be lower.

'We have some of the most generous student support packages around and it's an unlimited pot: we don't run out of cash.'


World apart: EastEnders could not be further removed from Cambridge academia

So far Cambridge University's advances have not directly led to any television mentions.

However, EastEnders is already running a story about two bright students from low-income backgrounds who are striving for places at Oxbridge.  

The mothers of Libby Fox and Tamwar Masood are competing over who might make it to the hallowed learning establishments.

A spokeswoman for Oxford University, Cambridge's historic competitor, said that it had never attempted similar tactics.

But she did admit it had contacted EastEnders to make sure that scriptwriters were fully aware of its bursaries, should the Oxford versus Cambridge storyline develop.

Approached: Catherine Tate and David Tennant in Doctor Who which dons also hope to persuade into giving Cambridge a mention

Approached: Dons offered up Cambridge as a setting for Doctor Who

The Cambridge spokesman said: 'It's really important to get a popular message across about raising young people's aspirations and showing them the range of options on offer.'

He confirmed that the university had a rolling programme of writing to script editors at the major soaps.

He said it was following the method of the Department of Health which has whole departments designed to get messages about healthy eating or vaccinations into the popular consciousness.

Cambridge and Oxford are both under government pressure to increase their intake of state school students but attempts have so far failed.

They believe students are unaware of generous bursary packages available.

The Cambridge spokesman, said: 'Cambridge was once a privileged place and there's a timelag in changing that idea.

'We're regarded as an elite university and somehow we're not available to everyone. We want to encourage bright students to apply.'

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