High-achieving Welsh teenagers are to be given the opportunity to sample life at Oxford University through a four-day summer school at Jesus College.
In collaboration with the Welsh Government, sixth-formers who are part of the Seren network will be invited to apply for a place at a four-day summer school at Jesus.
Established by the Welsh Government two years ago, the Seren network addresses the decline of Welsh students applying to the UK’s top universities, including, but not limited to, Oxford and Cambridge.
Paul Murphy, the Welsh Government Oxbridge Ambassador for Wales, has been widely credited with drawing attention to the issue of the number of Welsh applicants to top universities.
His report on the issue uncovered that, between 2008–2012, Welsh applicants to Cambridge had a 22.6 per cent success rate, while the figure for the UK overall was 27 per cent. As well as this, Welsh applicants to Oxford had a 17.3 per cent success rate, compared with 23.6 per cent for rest of the country.
Oxford’s Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach, Dr Samina Khan, told Cherwell: “The University worked closely with Paul Murphy on his report and I am delighted the recommendations from the report are bearing fruit.
“We know summer schools are an excellent way of boosting students’ confidence and [getting them to] believe Oxford is for me. It is excellent that more Welsh students will have this opportunity.”
Elin Havard, President of the Oxford Welsh Society, told Cherwell: “It’s heartening that the University continues to actively encourage talented young people to learn more about the opportunities it could offer them.
“Experiences like the summer school are exactly what it takes to give some Welsh students who fully deserve a place at Oxford the confidence they need to apply for one.”
Speaking to Cherwell, Jesus College JCR President, Rosie Morgan, said: “The JCR is thrilled by any opportunity to increase access, both at a College and University level, and as such is really pleased that Jesus are offering this new initiative to further engage with Welsh students.”
Speaking exclusively to Cherwell, Lizzie Shelmerdine, President of Oxford First-Generation Students, said: “The fact that Oxford University accepts more students per year from Eton than it does from the entirety of Wales speaks volumes about the need for more outreach work in these areas.
“Many first-generation students have found summer schools incredibly inspiring, and enabled them to see Oxford as accessible rather than unattainable.
“I wholly expect the attendees of this summer school will have much the same experience, and hope that it will inspire many to consider applying.”
Elan Llwyd, a second year History student, said: “As a Welsh student as well as St Anne’s JCR Access Rep, I think this is a very admirable initiative by Jesus College.
“Summer schools are a great way of building confidence and can be pivotal in the students’ decisions about applying to Oxford. I hope that the students who attend will be able to explore student life at Jesus as well as Oxford as a whole.”
Tomos Sion, a first year History and Politics student at Brasenose, said: “It is encouraging to see Jesus College extending a helping hand to engage Welsh students and broaden their horizons beyond their typical university choices.
“Oxford is for anyone from any background and in Wales it does not seem to be on most school’s radar which is disappointing.
“In the future it would be great to see other colleges especially St.Peter’s who cover North Wales to make a greater effort to encourage Welsh students to apply.”
Despite being described as the ‘major’ Welsh College at Oxford, its founding charter contains no provision that the majority of its students should be Welsh. Nonetheless, between its founding by Welshman Dr Hugh Price in 1571 and 1915, an almost unbroken succession of 24 Principals of Jesus came from Wales or were of Welsh descent, and most College Fellows, until the reforms of 1859 and later, were also Welsh. 15 per cent of Jesus’ undergraduates are Welsh.
Lois Llywelyn Williams, studying French at Jesus, said: “As a Welsh student at Jesus myself, I am delighted to hear that a summer school will be held especially for prospective Welsh students.
“It is of utmost importance that gifted students do feel as if Oxford is accessible to them, and I believe that holding the summer school will contribute immensely to the aim of encouraging more Welsh students to apply to and benefit from education at competitive universities.”
This move follows that of the University to launch a summer school targeting prospective applicants from “white British socio-economically disadvantaged areas”, announced earlier this month.