Univ has launched an ambitious new scheme – the Opportunity Programme – to expand the number of UK students from disadvantaged backgrounds at the college.
About the Opportunity Programme
The College has committed to creating extra undergraduate places and offering targeted academic support in the form of a summer bridging course to ensure that these students are able to transition effectively to high-level University study.
From the October 2016 admissions round, the College has increased its undergraduate intake by 10%. These new places are filled through the University’s normal competitive admissions process, but are available only to students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. These additional students are selected in the usual way and according to the usual academic criteria. The aim of the scheme is simple: to ensure that very deserving students of high potential who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, but who might otherwise miss out on a place at Oxford due to the sheer number of applications, have the chance to study here.
Students are eligible for one of these places if they are predicted to achieve our standard conditional offer for the course to which they have applied and are also flagged under the University’s contextual data system as coming both from a lower-performing school and living in an area of relative socio-economic deprivation. Additionally, all students who have been in care for more than three months are eligible. Students from these backgrounds are among those whom the University has identified as under-represented in its student body and are therefore a priority for widening access. There is no separate application process for this scheme. Students simply apply to the College in the usual way, and all eligible applicants are considered in all subjects offered by Univ.
We recognise that many students from disadvantaged backgrounds may not have had the opportunity to broaden and deepen their academic skills and experience beyond the school curriculum, and so the College offers to these new students an intensive four-week bridging programme in the summer before they start their degree. This bridging programme consists of subject-specific tuition, wider exploration of academic material, and the development of key academic skills so as to ensure that these students hit the ground running when they start their first term. This bridging programme is free to the students. The College makes no charge for accommodation or food during the bridging programme, and in addition offers a £500 grant to every student who attends.
The College is extremely grateful to its Old Members for their generous support of this scheme.
‘I am delighted to welcome Univ’s creative new initiative to bring to Oxford more smart students from disadvantaged backgrounds and to provide them with an innovative bridging programme to help ensure that they thrive here.’- Professor Louise Richardson, Oxford University’s Vice-Chancellor
A Message from the Master
We’ve developed a scheme which promotes widening participation and which works within the University’s current admissions process and competitive standards. It takes students who have already shown exceptional ability and potential, and then through an intensive bridging programme gives them that extra boost which other students already benefit from because of their school and family background. In offering new places, we’re not reducing anyone else’s chances of gaining a place at Univ – we’re creating a new opportunity for new students.
How does the Programme work?
This is a pilot scheme to admit an additional 10% of undergraduate students per year from disadvantaged backgrounds. These students are offered a bridging programme prior to embarking on their degrees, in the form of an intensive summer school, giving them academic skills that go beyond the curriculum, placing them in the best position to succeed at Oxford.
Students apply through the usual admissions process, and are still expected to meet the University’s standard academic criteria and conditional offers. However, the scheme provides places for candidates who would have just missed out on the offer of a place due to the intense competition. Essentially, this scheme permits the College to revisit a number of the most difficult marginal decisions during the selection process.
How many extra student places will be available?
The aim is to admit approximately ten additional students per year through this scheme. Once the scheme is established, and given that we offer a mix of three- and four-year courses, we expect there to be about 35 students in Univ at any one time who have been admitted through this scheme.
What criteria does Univ use to select students for the Programme?
We draw candidates from the normal admissions process, using the categories of disadvantage identified in the University’s wider contextual data policy. Candidates are considered for the scheme if they are at a UK school at point of application and are predicted to achieve the conditional offer for their course, and also if they have either been in care, or if they satisfy at least two of the other key categories of disadvantage looked at by the University during the selection process. These include if they:
- Have attended a school which is flagged as performing at markedly below the national average at GCSE and/or A Level
- Are resident in an area of marked socio-economic deprivation or with low rates of progression to higher education
These categories have been chosen because they are in line with Oxford’s priorities for outreach work set out in its Access Agreement with the Office for Fair Access (See ox.ac.uk), the College does not have access to the information required to identify eligible students until after a UCAS application has been submitted. More information about Oxford’s use of contextual data in admissions is available at ox.ac.uk
When did the Opportunity Programme start?
The first students were admitted under this scheme in the October 2016 admissions round and began their courses in October 2017.
Do students need to make a separate application in order to be considered for the Programme?
No. There is no separate application process for this scheme. Students simply apply to the College in the usual way, and all eligible applicants are considered in all subjects offered by Univ. There is no need for a student even to mention that they are interested in the scheme. If they are eligible according to criteria set out in question three above then they will be considered for a place.
Do UCAS referees need to do anything different from the norm?
No. Many schools find it helpful to include contextual information in their UCAS references, but there is no need to do anything specific in order to support an applicant who is interested in the Opportunity Programme. There is no separate application process for this scheme. Students simply apply to the College in the usual way, and all eligible applicants will be considered in all subjects offered by Univ. If they are eligible according to criteria set out in question three above then they will be considered for a place.
Are students who are allocated to Univ through either the Open Application scheme or through the University’s moderation processes eligible for place through the scheme?
Yes. Open applicants together with candidates who have initially applied to other Oxford colleges but are subsequently made available to Univ through the University’s normal processes of intercollegiate moderation are also considered on the same basis as direct applicants.
If I make an application for deferred entry will I still be considered for the Programme?
Yes. Students making an application for deferred entry are eligible to be considered for the scheme. Each application will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Is the Opportunity Programme open to students applying for any subject?
Eligible students will only be considered for the scheme if they are applying for a subject offered by University College. A list of subjects offered by the College can be seen on our Courses at Univ page.
Am I eligible for the programme if I am an international student?
Students will be considered for the scheme if they attend a UK school at the point of application.
What will the bridging programme consist of?
We recognise that many students from disadvantaged backgrounds may not have had the opportunity to broaden and deepen their academic skills and experience beyond the school curriculum. Breadth and depth of academic experience are of real benefit to students embarking on demanding degrees, and so the College will offer to these new students an intensive bridging programme in the summer before they start their degree. This bridging programme consists of subject-specific tuition, wider exploration of academic material, and the development of key academic skills so as to ensure that these students hit the ground running when they start their first term. Students undertake classes, group-work, and one-on-one tutorials.
Does the bridging course really make a difference?
Yes, we’re confident that it does. We’re talking about very able candidates, who are independently capable of meeting the high entry standards. We’ve investigated this very closely, and this extra support will help ensure the students are better prepared for the start of their Oxford education.
Does the bridging programme cost students anything?
No. The College makes no charge for accommodation or food during the bridging programme, and in addition we will offer a £500 grant to every student who attends. This grant is intended to ensure that students can live in Oxford during the bridging programme with no cost to themselves or their families, and is in addition to any other College or University grant to which a student is entitled.
Why has Univ launched this scheme?
For several important reasons:
- We want to see faster progress being made in increasing admissions from young people from disadvantaged backgrounds
- We believe it to be in the best interests of the students participating in the scheme – ensuring those students who come from disadvantaged background, from schools without a history of attendance at Oxford University, are as well prepared for their studies as they can be
- We believe it’s in the best interests of Univ to have students from the widest possible range of backgrounds, as this adds to diversity and the learning experience for all
- We believe it will be an important contribution to the University’s overall efforts towards widening participation
How does the Opportunity Programme fit into Univ’s wider work with school students?
Univ does a great deal of work to promote widening access to the University. The College was the first in Oxford to employ a School’s Liaison Officer, its Staircase12 pages are a pioneering super-curricular support resource, the Old Members Trust generously funds top-up grants and vacation bursaries for less well-off students, and we have a prize-winning prospectus. Also, and very significantly, many academics and students generously give their time to access and outreach activities, both in College and beyond. This scheme builds on these efforts