School children from minority ethnic groups, sat in a classroom

Credit: The Brilliant Club


Greg Scannell (St Benet’s Hall, 2005) talks about coming to Oxford from a working class background

Published: 24 September 2018

Author: Tabitha Whiting


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Greg Scannell was the first person in his family to attend university, let alone Oxford. He was originally inspired to apply after a week studying theology at Magdalen College as part of a Sutton Trust Summer School. Since graduating in Theology, his career has been dedicated to broadening access to Oxford.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently employed by The Brilliant Club, a charity which aims to increase the number of pupils from under-represented backgrounds who progress to highly selective universities. I’m National Manager for Wales, and currently working on The Scholars Programme which places PhD-level researchers in state schools to deliver university-style teaching and learning to pupils.

Previously I worked with Teach First Cymru, and was a teacher for five years myself at Bishop Vaughan Comprehensive School.

Greg Scannell

Credit: Greg Scannell

What drew you to Oxford?

When I was in Year 12, my Head of Sixth Form encouraged me to apply for a Sutton Trust Summer school place. The week I spent at Magdalen both studying and socialising with current undergraduates helped to dispel many preconceptions that I had about university and Oxford. I saw that it was both a fantastic place to be, and a real option for me to consider.

What was your library of choice as a student?

The Rad Cam, but I actually did most of my work in my flat after getting books out of the Theology Faculty (it used to be next door but one to St Benet’s Hall).

What’s your favourite memory of your time in Oxford?

My favourite time of year was the end of the academic year and that’s where the best memories are for me: going to Port Meadow for a barbecue and staying up to see the sun rise, emerging from the Exam Schools after my final three-hour exam to be greeted by friends and champagne, singing songs with my flatmates all the way home through Jericho.

What made you decide to go into university access and admissions as a career?

While I was a student at Oxford I worked every Easter and summer vacation at various different colleges helping young people from similar backgrounds to mine (first-generation, state school, working-class family) to realise that Oxford could be the place for them. I went into education as a career for the same reason: to help raise aspirations and enable young people to achieve their potential and make informed choices about their future. Higher Education offers so many amazing chances to increase one’s knowledge, meet new people and try new things, and it opens up so many further opportunities. I believe that we have an obligation to ensure that everyone has the chance to access and experience this, irrespective of their socio-economic or ethnic background.

My time at Oxford and the people I met there made me realise that there was no single type of ‘Oxford student.’ It’s a truly extraordinary place full of extraordinary people from all backgrounds. It doesn’t matter where you are from - all that matters is your academic ability and potential.

If you could give one piece of advice to prospective applicants, what would it be?

My advice to anyone thinking of applying is to do so! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. But on a more practical level, look out for extra-curricular opportunities to create your point of difference from all the other candidates with similar grades, such as free online courses, listening to podcasts, attending summer schools, or entering essay prizes.

To find out more about The Brilliant Club head to their website.

Greg worked for the University of Oxford for a year as part of the Widening Access and Participation Team.