Oxford University makes positive strides in widening access despite pandemic challenges

Oxford’s newly published undergraduate admissions report shows the Covid-19 pandemic has not affected the University’s continued progress to widening access for undergraduate students.

The report shows:

• The proportion of incoming students from state schools rose to a record 68.6%.
• The proportion of incoming students identifying as Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) rose to 23.6%.
• The proportion of incoming students from socio-economically disadvantaged areas now stands at 15.9%.
• The proportion of incoming students from areas of low progression to higher education is 15.6%
• The proportion of students declaring a disability has grown from 7.2% to 10.4% in the last five years
• The University continues to attract more women than men (54.2%)

Now in its fourth year of publication, the report reveals that Oxford continues to attract students from all backgrounds.

There was concern across the sector that the method chosen to award A-level grades last year might negatively impact young people from under-represented backgrounds, particularly those who had been adversely affected by the pandemic crisis. However, the collegiate University worked to support students affected, being as flexible as possible, ensuring that the most talented applicants were accepted, especially those who are under-represented at the University.

As a result, in 2020 we admitted around 300 more students than usual, and the incoming undergraduate student-body included a record level of students from a state school background than ever before, with more than 68.6% (1,899) of new undergraduates attending from state schools – an increase of more than 6% on the previous year’s admissions of 62.3% (1,557).

The report also shows that more students of Black, Asian and ethnic minority heritage are choosing the University than ever before, representing 23.6% of Oxford’s UK intake – up from 22% in the previous year.

Over the last year the University has worked hard to reshape its outreach and access activities for online audiences in the face of COVID-19 restrictions, ensuring that as many people from disadvantaged backgrounds could access them. Most recently, these plans include adding 300 places to benefit from the online academic support offered by the Opportunity Oxford bridging scheme, for students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. This will take the number of students it supports from an initial 116 to almost 500 in just two years.

Professor Louise Richardson, Vice Chancellor at the University of Oxford, said: ‘While the pandemic has, in many ways, changed the way we operate, it has not weakened our commitment to diversifying the make-up of our student body. The progress evidenced in this, our fourth annual Admissions Report, is a testament to the dedication of our Admissions Teams, the support of school teachers and, of course, the many talents of able and ambitious young people.

‘Notwithstanding all the adjustments and adaptations required by the pandemic we remain committed to ensuring that every talented, academically driven pupil in the country, wherever they come from, sees Oxford as a place for them.’

Dr Samina Khan, Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach at Oxford University, said: ‘The pandemic will continue to hit the least advantaged students for a while, hence we remain resolute in stamping out inequality in access to Oxford. Working together with schools across the country, we are increasing our focus on reaching regional ‘cold-spots’ where the most talented young people are still under-represented at Oxford – driving down the risk that we are missing out on some of the UK’s brightest students.’