New bursary to enhance the experience of visually impaired students at Oxford
The new bursary includes three separate stages of funding which are designed to significantly enhance the university experience for visually impaired undergraduates.
The bursary is funded by Christopher Moore, a former student of University College (1994-97) who is himself visually impaired and registered as blind. Mr Moore was motivated by his own personal experience to set up the opportunity, including attending an A-level support course at St Anne’s college, which allowed him to acclimatise to the city and University environment before taking up his place.
The bursary is open to undergraduates and students holding offers of a University place. The three bursary stages are:
• Funding for travel to Oxford and accommodation while students get acquainted with the city and University, ahead of starting their degree.
• Funding for non-essential activity or equipment that might enhance students’ experience at Oxford which is not covered through statutory funding.
• A dedicated bursary for internships to include cover for travel, accommodation, daily stipend and any costs specific to the needs of visually impaired students.
Mr Moore who works in investment management, who spent the bulk of the pandemic lockdown in Thailand, and is currently in Malmo, Sweden. He said he has never allowed his impairment to prevent him from doing anything in life but is aware this is not the case for many others.
Mr Moore said: ‘In setting up this bursary, I wanted to prevent anyone visually impaired with the academic ability to get into Oxford, being daunted from applying or accepting their place because of their disability. We need to challenge this belief that visual impairment prevents you from achieving potential: academically, socially, or that it should impact your career ambitions.’
‘When I was applying to Oxford, my biggest concern was getting the grades I needed. I was so convinced I wouldn’t, that I almost turned down my offer, until my headmaster reminded me that “you do not reject Oxford”.
‘I feel I was lucky educationally to have attended a mainstream secondary school and then to live in-college at UNIV throughout my time as an undergraduate, which given its central location was very helpful in maximising my mobility within the city. And, I think there are things that non-visually impaired students take for granted that visually impaired students do not – lots of little things that can put them off accepting offers.’
‘A lot of visually impaired students could well be academically able enough to get into Oxford, however their school journey may limit opportunities for teenage social interaction, which would make them even more nervous about being away from home in a new environment. There are obstacles that either the University or the city might present, including adapting to such a unique style of learning as Oxford’s – even the tutorial system is quite an adjustment that relies on the recognition of facial expressions and body language. I want all visually-impaired applicants to have the same opportunities as I have, and not let anything hold them back.’
Professor Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education at Oxford, said: ‘At Oxford we are working hard to remove the barriers that disabled students face, but we know there is more to do. I’m therefore very excited by this new bursary, which is an important source of support in helping visually impaired students to achieve their potential. From the orientation visit through to the internship support, each phase of the bursary has been carefully considered to enable students to concentrate on important aspects of university life: the academic demands, social life and future career opportunities.’
Visually impaired students currently make-up 0.2% of the Oxford University student body, with a total of 25 undergraduate and 25 graduate students on-course who have declared a single disability of “Blind or serious visual impairment”.
The collegiate University and Disability Advisory Service currently provides a wide range of individual adjustments and study support to students to ensure that they are able to thrive academically. These include teaching adjustments, accessible living quarters, human support and travel between study sites. All students registered disabled in the UK receive statutory financial support from the government for non-study related costs and personal care.