University dismisses calls for new colleges to improve access

A new report proposes that Oxford should introduce new colleges designed specifically to boost the number of students from under-represented groups

Oxford University have said they have no intention to open new colleges to boost student diversity, after a new paper highlighted the need to help those from under-represented groups get into higher education.

The document, published by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi), proposes that both Oxford and Cambridge should introduce new colleges designed specifically to boost the numbers of students from under-represented groups.

However, the University has dismissed the plans as unrealistic. A spokesperson told Cherwell: “There are no plans to expand overall undergraduate numbers or create new colleges. Neither would be a straightforward process: Oxford is made up of around 40 colleges and permanent private halls which already face major accommodation and other resource challenges.

“There are already many other college and University initiatives which are expanding the number of students from under-represented backgrounds.”

As well as advocating for new Oxbridge colleges, the paper also includes nationwide proposals to appoint a commissioner for student mental health, and to change the timing of university applications so they take place after A-level results have been published.

In December, the Sutton Trust released a report calling on universities to embrace Post Qualification Admissions (PQA), citing evidence that 1,000 disadvantaged, high-achieving students have their grades underpredicted each year.

A former director of research at the Sutton Trust, Conor Ryan, said that “poor but bright students consistently have their grades underestimated”, and so would benefit from post-qualification admissions.

A University spokesperson told Cherwell at the time of the report: “Oxford is very concerned about fairness and does not believe in a system that inadvertently excludes bright disadvantaged candidates.

“The limitations of a pre-qualifications admissions system are well known, and moving to a post-qualifications system would have an impact on students and schools as well as universities and would need to be considered carefully.”

Oxford already uses a system of contextual data in shortlisting candidates, and takes contextual information into account when making selection decisions.

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