Oxford University has delayed the implementation of “Foundation Oxford”, which will offer students with high academic potential a place on a one-year pre-degree course. This initiative is based on the Foundation Year programme that has already been in place at Lady Margaret Hall since 2016. The University announced this delay at the end of January.

The University announced its plans to launch “Foundation Oxford” in 2019, with the timeline for the uni-wide foundation year to be in place by 2022. However, Oxford University has since said this will be delayed until 2023.

The initial announcement stated this programme “will be offered to state school students from less advantaged areas and who have also experienced personnel disadvantage or a severely disrupted education. Eligible students could include refugees, children in care or those who are themselves carers or estranged from their families… Those who pass the course will then progress to undergraduate study at Oxford.” Once the initiative is up and running, it is expected that the programme will support up to 50 students every year across selected subjects. 

Cambridge University also announced a new foundation year program for students, with up to 50 Foundation Year students to arrive in the programme’s first intake in October 2022. 

Alan Rusbridger, Principal of LMH said to Cherwell: “We’re naturally disappointed that the start of Foundation Oxford has slipped a year. This programme builds on the pioneering work at LMH, which itself is based on 20 years of experience at Trinity College Dublin. 

It’s heartening that Cambridge University will launch its own Foundation year scheme in 2022 and we have given them all the help we can. We are also reassured by Oxford’s promise that it is still determined to launch Foundation Oxford in 2023. We are currently recruiting a 6th cohort for the continuing LMH programme – and very much hope to continue our own scheme through to 2023.”

This programme was announced alongside the other access initiative Opportunity Oxford that helps to prepare talented UK offer holders from under-represented backgrounds for successful student careers at our university: “Under the programme, selected Oxford offer-holders participate in an academic bridging programme which supports them in their transition from school or college to our university.”

David Lammy, the MP who has been a prominent critic of Oxbridge admissions for disadvantaged and minority ethnic students, said the new foundation year was “a major step forward.” He went on to further state “These changes continue to allow Oxford’s 38 autonomous colleges enormous discretion over how seriously to take access. For true systemic change to be achieved, admissions should be centralised and contextual data should be used at every stage in the admissions process.”

A spokesperson for the University told Cherwell: “In light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the University has taken the difficult decision that the first year of its Foundation Oxford access scheme will be 2023, rather than 2022 as originally planned. Foundation Oxford remains a keystone of our ambitions to admit more state school students from underrepresented backgrounds, along with the successfully launched Opportunity Oxford bridging scheme.

“Now in its second year, we have just made 167 Opportunity Oxford offers to students and the University remains on track to meet its targets for admitting students from more disadvantaged backgrounds. We are increasing the academic support we provide to students impacted by the pandemic, which has highlighted educational inequalities. We are also continuing the development work on the Foundation Oxford course and will announce more details in due course.

“Opportunity Oxford builds on the success of a bridging programme at University College, while Foundation Oxford has grown out of a five-year pioneering trial at Lady Margaret Hall (LMH). Nearly 50 students from under-represented backgrounds have been admitted for the LMH Foundation Year. The very first student to graduate from the scheme last year obtained a first-class honours degree in music. We hope that the Lady Margaret Hall programme may be extended for a further year to continue to develop learning and to share experience before the launch of the University-wide programme.”

Image Credit: Herbi1922/CC BY-SA 4.0

07/03/21, 11:56 – this article was edited to include a comment from the University.