Quarter of Oxford places to go to disadvantaged students

The university plans to increase the number of students from underrepresented backgrounds by 2023

University of Oxford says a quarter of its students should come from disadvantaged backgrounds by 2023.

The 25% target was announced by vice-chancellor Louise Richardson along with two new programmes to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds – Opportunity Oxford and Foundation Oxford.

According to the university’s statistics, 15% of its students come from a deprived area.

Opportunity Oxford is a scheme with places for 200 students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The scheme is open to students who have applied through Ucas and are predicted to achieve Oxford’s required grades.

The programme will offer additional support including “structured study at home” and “two weeks of residential study at Oxford”. It is designed to support students who may struggle with the transition from college to university.

Foundation Oxford is a full-year foundation programme with 50 places open “to students with high academic potential who, for reasons beyond their control, are not yet in a position to make a competitive Oxford application”. Contextual offers will be made to school leavers who would not normally get a place at Oxford but have a shown academic potential. Students who successfully complete the year-long scheme will automatically receive an undergraduate offer.

We will look closely at the effectiveness of these innovative new schemes in order to make sure that it is your potential, and not your postcode, that is the key to getting on in life – Chris Millward

Richardson told The Guardian: “There’s a huge commitment across the university to do more on this and there’s a sense that the pace at which we were realising this ambition was too slow.”

Figures released by the Office for Students (OfS) in April 2019 revealed that less than 5% of students accepted to Oxford University in the past five years came from the most disadvantaged parts of the country. The national average for universities in England was 12%. The data was based on participation of local area figures (POLAR) which measure how likely young people are to progress to higher education according to where they live. Those postcodes where few young people participate in higher education are classified as less advantaged on the POLAR scale.

Chris Millward, OfS’s director for fair access and participation, said: “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.

“It is good to see a number of universities, including Oxford, responding positively to this pressure. We will look closely at the effectiveness of these innovative new schemes in order to make sure that it is your potential, and not your postcode, that is the key to getting on in life.”

Oxford University will measure disadvantage using POLAR figures as well as other indicators like spending time in care or eligibility for free school meals.


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