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Astrophoria Foundation Year makes first offers

Thirty-five students received word that they had secured a place on Oxford’s Astrophoria Foundation Year for 2023/2024 entry. The Astrophoria Foundation Year is aimed at academically promising students who have experienced considerable setbacks in their education, preventing them from meeting the demands of an undergraduate offer.  

The foundation year has been in place at Lady Margaret Hall since 2016 and has been described by one student as having been “beneficial for [their] self-growth, not just as a student but also as a person”. Notable alumni include Danial Hussain, the current President-Elect of the Student Union.

In the coming year, Exeter, Jesus, Mansfield, Somerville, St Anne’s, St Hugh’s, Trinity and Wadham will all welcome their first waves of foundation year students.  

The Astrophoria Foundation Year constitutes a further expansion of the university’s attempts to improve access with eligibility for the scheme depending on a number of criteria.  

According to the University, students should have experienced all three of; (1.) socio-economic difficulties (e.g. having a certain post code), (2.) school based difficulties (including attendance at a non-selective school where most students are eligible for free-school meals) and (3.) difficulties of individual experience, such as experience acting as a young carer.  

Students who have spent time in the care system are also eligible for the foundation year, regardless of whether they are considered to have been disadvantaged in other areas.  

In 2020, Oxford launched Opportunity Oxford, a university-wide summer bridging course designed to help disadvantaged students prepare for their first year of university studies.  

When asked what distinguished Opportunity Oxford from the Astrophoria Foundation Year, the University told Cherwell: “The two programmes are aimed at different target groups of students.” 

“Opportunity Oxford is suitable for students who are ready to start Oxford degrees with modest support”, while “the Astrophoria Foundation Year aims to give more substantial support to students who have experienced significant educational and/or personal disadvantage and so need a more sustained intervention”. 

Fully funded by the University, Astrophoria students have the opportunity to continue on to an undergraduate degree without undergoing the same formal assessment process. To gain their places on the programme, however, all 35 offer-holders (along with approximately 500 other applicants) underwent an assessment process consisting of a questionnaire followed by interviews taking place in March 2023.  

While the majority of teaching offered during the foundation year will resemble the format of an undergraduate degree, the University has recently confirmed that the Astrophoria programme also offers additional tuition not otherwise found in the standard degree structure.  

This includes the Preparation for Undergraduate Studies’ course, targeted at helping with students’ personal development through confidence building and help in the development of practical academic and communication skills. 

Academically, students on the foundation year are offered the choice of one of four courses, including Humanities; Chemistry, Engineering and Material Science; Philosophy, Politics and Economics; and Law, before specialising in an undergraduate degree of their choice. 

In time, the programme is expected by the University to expand to all undergraduate Oxford colleges.

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