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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

In full: rich colleges hinder outreach efforts

Magdalen, Oriel and New spend less than 0.5% of college budgets on outreach in 2017/18.

Magdalen, Oriel, and New spent less than half a percent of their college budgets on outreach in 2017/18, Cherwell can reveal.

Freedom of Information requests sent by Cherwell also revealed that Magdalen spent £47,000 on college organised outreach in 2017/2018, less than any other college except St Hugh’s. This is despite the fact that Magdalen is the third wealthiest college in Oxford, and boasts assets of £272 million.

On average, colleges spent 0.9% of their annual budgets on outreach. By comparison, New College spent 0.47% of their annual budget historically on outreach, although they have pledged to pay 1% from now on.

Several colleges also provided a breakdown of outreach spending. New College’s ‘Step Up’ programme (which is “designed to inspire and support state school students throughout
Year 11, 12 and 13”) supports 21 schools and colleges. 10 of these schools have been ranked ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.

Warden of New College, Miles Young told Cherwell: “One needs to be careful in highlighting data such as Ofsted in isolation.  It’s just one data set a College should be looking at, and we look at many.  For instance of our seven schools rated ‘excellent’ these are two schools with a higher than national average of FSM students (one is nearly double the national average).  One of these schools also have over fifty percent of students classified as Black / Mixed Black Heritage

“[These schools also include:] Three schools in under-represented areas (the SW and NW of England), one school where roughly 80% of the school are non-White, and two schools for girls.

“If excluded, Oxford would miss out on these pupils. The lesson is that one should be as holistic as possible when selecting schools for sustained outreach.  The willingness and the enthusiasm of the school is also important.”

St. Anne’s spent £93,000 on two five-day summer schools in Hong Kong and Singapore in 2017/2018. The summer schools helped fund around £120,000 of domestic outreach resources and activities overall.

Queen’s also cited a poetry translation exchange as one of their main access programmes. The exchange promised to host events “including an international literature book club, […] international writers visiting Oxford, and a residency for an international writer.”

However, some colleges have spent a consistently high amount on access and outreach. Of the 30 undergraduate colleges, Christ Church and Wadham have budgeted the most on outreach for the past three years. Both spent over five times as much as Magdalen in 2017/2018. Pembroke had the third highest level of spending at £217,000.

The majority of colleges are also set to increase their access budgets in 2018/2019. Trinity and Magdalen will more than double outreach spending in this period, while Jesus will increase spending by £56,000.

College outreach spending 2017-18

St. Hilda’s is the only college which expects to spend less in 2018/19.

Lord Adonis recently called for radical new access initiatives, encouraging the University to create new colleges for disadvantaged students. Speaking on Cherwell’s findings, Lord Adonis said: “It unfortunately does not surprise me that some Oxford and Cambridge colleges, particularly the richest ones, are not doing enough to ‘widening access’ since there is a deep seated culture of complacency.

“These findings show that incremental change at existing colleges is a limited solution, and we now need a new generation of “access” colleges with an exclusive focus on recruiting disadvantaged young people from the 3000 “non-Oxbridge” schools and colleges.

“This research shows that there is huge scope and resources at Oxford and Cambridge throughout to make this kind of transformational change on access happen – what is needed is the impetus colleges with a dedicated access mission would provide.”

The findings follow comments made by VC Louise Richardson in November 2018. She noted that as colleges are responsible for recruiting students, they should also be responsible for access and outreach initiatives.

These comments were met with frustration by students, including then Mansfield JCR president, Daria Lyskyakova, who said it was the role of the Vice Chancellor to “effectively encourage colleges to prioritise access and allocate their resources in ways which would best aid students in need”.

James Turner, CEO of the Sutton Trust, also spoke on Cherwell’s findings, noting: “Our research has found big variances in the proportion of state school students admitted to different Oxbridge colleges.  We want very college to put widening access at the heart of their admissions policies, by investing in the most effective outreach activities and by setting ambitious plans to address social inequalities.

“While committing financial resources is an important part of this – and it is disappointing to see rich colleges spending a lower proportion of their budgets than their peers – what is also important is evaluating the impact of access activities to make sure every penny makes a difference.”

Lucas Bertholdi-Saad, VP Access & Academic Affairs at Oxford SU, added: “It is quite depressing to see such stark figures and the continued inaction to increase access across the University. Colleges should be leading the vanguard on access issues but they are sadly lacking behind.”

A spokesperson for Magdalen college told Cherwell that:“the combined total of Magdalen’s access and outreach including Student Support Fund grants was £456,000. The figure [quoted] of £47,000 for college organised outreach work in that year was lower than intended because of discontinuities in staffing. However, a comparative figure for 2018-2019 is expected to be over £115,000, and an overall spend on Access and Outreach
to be over £550,000.”

A spokesperson from St. Anne’s college said: “St Anne’s College is committed to being a diverse and inclusive community and works hard to encourage and support students from under-represented backgrounds to make successful applications to the University of Oxford.

“As a College with a comparatively small endowment, this work is only possible because of the support of donors and because of other income-generating activities run by the College.

These include our international summer schools, which have proved to be a means by which the College can generate income. No funding has been diverted from UK outreach to undertake international summer schools, which have all more than covered
their costs through charges to participants or by donations given specifically for this purpose.

“St Anne’s has always been and remains proud of its international relationships and we believe that these continue to be vital for our staff and students.”

On occasion where colleges did not provide expenditure for 2017-18, estimates and averages were calculated based on figures from the previous two years.St Hugh’s, Queen’s, Oriel, LMH and New were contacted for comment. Comments received from colleges will be updated online.

* In our printed copy of this article, a spokesperson from St. Anne’s is misquoted with comment that should be attributed to the Sutton Trust. Lord Adonis is also partially misquoted. We apologise for any confusion caused.

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