IT was as if an episode of Inspector Morse had come to life at Pembroke College: the body of the student union president is found dead, and everyone becomes a suspect.

But this was not the work of the latest TV serial killer to haunt Oxford’s dreaming spires, but the highlight of a free residential programme for Oxfordshire teenagers.

Pupils from schools in the county were taking part in the Murder in the Cloisters event last week, to get a flavour of life at university.

As well as trying to solve the killing, pupils visited Oxford University’s libraries, lecture theatres and museums as part of a scheme which encourages them to apply for university.

With the discovery of the body in the college quad, the teenage detectives faced a race against time to build up new skills to identify the killer.

Henry Box School pupil Robert Russell, 13, from Witney, said: “It was a really good fun, and we all enjoyed solving the mystery.

“It seems very well planned out, with sessions in classics, chemistry, and a trail around the Ashmolean, Pitt Rivers and Natural History museums.”

The university’s widening access co-ordinator, Sian Renwick, said: “The murder mystery gives them a framework for the taster sessions they do. They do some chemistry, as they look at the forensics, such as fingerprinting and analysis of white powder found at the scene.

“When they find the body, there is also a note written in Sanskrit, and so they have some sessions with an Oriental languages expert to try to decipher what it says.

“The whole event is to give them a taste of living in student accommodation, and exploring subjects they will not have come across before.”

University students from the Oxford Imps improvisational comedy group played the other characters, who were questioned by the schoolchildren over their role in the crime.

The 19 pupils taking part came from Bicester Community College, Oxford Spires Academy, Cheney School, Chipping Norton School, Henry Box School in Witney, Cooper School in Bicester and St Birinus School in Didcot.

The schools are part of the university’s Oxford Young Ambassadors group, which links schools with the historic institution.

Ms Renwick added: “Over three years, we go from confidence building and introducing them to university to helping them raise their attainment, in the hope they will come out with better grades.

“We want them to think about university in general and give them the passion to make the best possible application to the right university. For some that may be Oxford, which is fantastic, but for the majority it will be other universities locally and nationally.”