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Opportunity Programme launches

students in Univ's Main QuadUniv is launching an ambitious new scheme – the Univ Opportunity Programme – to expand the number of UK students from disadvantaged backgrounds at the college.

The college is committing 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 will increase its undergraduate intake by 10 percent.  These new places will be filled through the University’s normal competitive admissions process, but they will be available only to students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.  These additional students will be 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 will be eligible for one of these new places if they are predicted to achieve our standard conditional offer for the course to which they have applied and they 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 will be 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 will simply apply to the College in the usual way, and all eligible applicants will be considered in all subjects offered by Univ.  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 will also be considered on the same basis as direct applicants.

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 four-week bridging programme in the summer before they start their degree.  This bridging programme will consist 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 will be free to the students.  The College will make 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 it will be in addition to any other College or University grant to which a student is entitled.

Sir Ivor Crewe, Master of University College, explained:  “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.”

Oxford University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson, said: “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.”

The College is extremely grateful to its Old Members for their generous support of this scheme.

Published: 18 July 2016

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