Univ launches new programme to improve access

Scheme seeks to increase places and offer courses to students from disadvantaged backgrounds

University College is launching a new programme to increase the number of UK students from disadvantaged backgrounds who attend the college.

The new scheme, called the Univ Opportunity Programme, involves committing extra undergraduate to students from less privileged backgrounds, as well as introducing a free summer bridging course.

The programme comes after Univ was revealed as the fourth worst performing Oxford colleges for state school acceptance in December, with 48.3 per cent of acceptances from the state sector.

As of this October, the college is to increase its undergraduate intake by 10 per cent with new places only available to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The applicants, however, will still be selected in the usual way according to the usual academic criteria.

The projects aims 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 at the university.

Students who are identified in the University’s contextual data system as having attended a low-performing school and as living in a place of relative socio-economic deprivation will be eligible for the new places. Those who have been in care for more than three months will also be eligible.

In addition to this, They must be predicted to achieve the standard conditional offer for the course to which they have applied.

Students from these backgrounds are currently under-represented in the Oxford student body and so should be a priority for widening access, according to the university.

Applicants will follow the usual process and all eligible applicants, including those who initially applied to another college but are pooled to Univ, will be considered across all subjects offered by the college.

Univ will also offer targeted academic support through a four week bridging programme the summer before prospective students start their degree, which aims to ease applicants’ transition from school to high-level university study.

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The bridging programme will consist of subject-specific tuition, exploration of academic material, and the development of key academic skills to ensure students “hit the ground running” when they start in Michaelmas term.

The college will offer a £500 grant to each student who attends the course to ensure they can live in Oxford during the programme, as well as free accommodation and food.

Master of University College, Sir Ivor Crewe, commented, “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.”