Oxford University announces two schemes to boost disadvantaged student numbers

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According to the university, by 2023 one in four undergraduates is set to be from the UK’s most under-represented backgrounds.

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A “sea change” in the University of Oxford’s admissions is expected with the launch of two schemes aimed at helping disadvantaged students.

The free programmes will be for bright but poor pupils who are offered a place to study at Oxford but struggle to meet the final requirements, or need help making the transition.

According to the university, by 2023 one in four undergraduates is set to be from the UK’s most under-represented backgrounds.

The announcement comes as elite universities are under increased pressure to widen access and make sure students from poorer backgrounds are not put off from applying.

Opportunity Oxford is aimed at students from more disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds.

From the next admissions round it will see the introduction of a study programme for up to 200 students who have applied in the normal way and are on course to gain the required grades, but need additional support to transition successfully from school.

The scheme will comprise of structured study at home plus two weeks of residential study at Oxford just before the start of the undergraduate term.


Foundation Oxford will be a full-year programme open to students who have personally experienced particularly severe disadvantage or educational disruption.

The scheme aims to open up places to students with high academic potential who, owing to their circumstances, 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.


The participants will all be based at Oxford colleges and, provided they successfully complete the programme, will move on to the undergraduate degree for which they were admitted.

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.”

The university says the programmes will offer places 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%.

Chris Millward, director for fair access and participation at the Office for Students, said: “Radical change is needed if gaps in access between the most and least advantaged students are to shrink at the most selective universities.

“These proposals from Oxford are a positive step in the right direction, although of course there is much more to do.

“The Office for Students has, and will continue to, put pressure on these universities to close the gaps which mean five times more students from advantaged backgrounds are admitted compared to their disadvantaged peers.”

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