Oxford University has unveiled two new access schemes that will help under-represented students

Published: 6 June 2019

Author: Richard Lofthouse


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One Oxford undergraduate in four is set to be from the UK’s most under-represented backgrounds by 2023, as the result of two new access programmes – Opportunity Oxford and Foundation Oxford. Meanwhile, the University’s annual undergraduate admissions report, published on June 6, reveals steady progress in attracting students from a range of under-represented backgrounds.

The two access programmes aim to increase significantly the number of most promising students from groups who are currently under-represented in Oxford. Opportunity Oxford is aimed at students from more disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. Foundation Oxford will be open to students who have personally experienced severe disadvantage or educational disruption.

When fully up and running, these major new programmes will offer transformative paths to outstanding education for up to 250 state school students a year, representing 10% of Oxford’s UK undergraduate intake. This represents a significant step change for the University, boosting the proportion of students coming to Oxford from under-represented backgrounds from 15% of the current UK intake to 25%.

The Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, Professor Louise Richardson, said: 'This is a sea change in Oxford admissions. Colleagues from across the University, its colleges and departments have united behind a commitment to accelerate the pace at which we are diversifying our student body and ensuring that every academically exceptional student in the country knows that they have a fair chance of a place at Oxford.'

Ffion Price, who studied on University College’s bridging programme, says: ‘It is a turning point for this institution – a recognition that, while unfortunately students up and down the country are not afforded a level playing field, as an institution we are capable of generating initiatives that help to combat that. It is a significant step towards ensuring that those who are capable, and have had to endure unique circumstance and hardship through no fault of their own, are afforded the opportunity to succeed as much as anyone else.'

Cherelle Malongo, a first year Classical Archaeology and Ancient History student who was on the 2017/18 Foundation Year at Lady Margaret Hall, says: ‘I am very pleased to hear that the University will be introducing Foundation Oxford. As a beneficiary of the LMH Foundation Year, I am heartened to know many more students will benefit from an Oxford education. As a young woman from Newham, Oxford seemed a distant dream, but since arriving in September 2017, I can’t imagine being anywhere else.’

The schemes offer students the chance to immerse themselves in the Oxford environment, developing their study skills and their subject knowledge. The students will benefit from the University’s internationally outstanding teaching facilities while living and studying in a college community. By the end of their programmes they will have developed the confidence to meet the challenges of a demanding undergraduate degree. Both schemes will be free and students’ residential and living costs will be fully funded throughout the courses.

The most recent publication on June 6 of university admission data revealed a solid basis for the new access schemes.

Key figures from the report include:

  • Applying to Oxford is more competitive than ever, with 21,515 students chasing 3,309 places
  • The proportion of state school admissions rose to a record 60.5%
  • The proportion of successful Black and Minority Ethnic students was also the highest-ever, at 18.3%. Black students rose from 1.9% to 2.6% of all students admitted.
  • The proportion from areas of low progression to higher education rose to 13.1%
  • The proportion of students declaring a disability rose to 9.2% - up from 6% five years ago
  • For the second year running, women outnumbered men, at 51.2% of the intake

Early figures for 2019 entry show still more progress. Offers to state school pupils are up again, to 64.5%. Offers to students from areas of low progression to higher education is up to 13.8%. However, the University is determined to move faster, providing the context for the new access schemes.

FURTHER NOTES: Oxford’s two new access schemes:

  1. Opportunity Oxford will see the University introduce a residential study programme for up to 200 students who have applied to the University in the normal way and are on course to gain the required grades, but need additional support to transition successfully from school to Oxford. These students may have narrowly missed out on a place in previous years. Opportunity Oxford will comprise structured study at home plus two weeks of residential study at Oxford just before the start of the undergraduate term. The course will introduce students to lectures, tutorials and group and individual work, building their subject knowledge, academic abilities and self-reliance. Students will then begin undergraduate study with greater confidence, new friends and familiarity with university life.
  2. Foundation Oxford is a full-year programme to be offered to students who have experienced personal disadvantage or severely disrupted education. The scheme aims to open up places to students with high academic potential who, for reasons beyond their control, are not yet in a position to make a competitive Oxford application. Eligible students could include refugees and children in care or with care responsibilities themselves. Once in operation, offers for Foundation Oxford will be made on the basis of lower contextual A-level grades, rather than the University’s standard offers. Successful students will undertake a year-long, bespoke, subject-specific programme, building their capacity for independent study. The participants will all be based at Oxford colleges and, provided they successfully complete the programme, will move on to the Oxford undergraduate degree that they initially applied for.