A flagship Oxford programme to attract students from educationally under-represented backgrounds is having a major impact on University entry, according to new figures.
Four out of every ten applicants who attended one of the University’s UNIQ summer schools last year have been offered a place at Oxford — twice the overall success rate for undergraduate entry.
The UNIQ programme gives bright students from educationally or socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds a free week at Oxford University, studying a subject in depth and getting a taste of student life.
657 people attended the 2011 summer schools and 444 (68%) went on to apply, of whom 185 (41% of those applying) received an offer.
In total, 17,243 people applied to Oxford for entry 2012 (or deferred entry 2013), 3,536 candidates in total received offers – an overall acceptance rate of 20.5%.
Oxford’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, said: 'We are passionately committed to attracting talented students whatever their circumstances.
'The UNIQ summer schools are a central pillar of our access strategy and we are delighted to see how effective they are. We also believe that by offering the most generous financial support in the country, we have made it more likely that those from under-represented socio-economic backgrounds will choose Oxford. We hope our message is getting across: If you have the ability, Oxford will remove all barriers.'
The UNIQ programme is a central part of Oxford’s intensive approach to student access, an approach that is proving highly successful. New figures also show that a third of all offers of places for 2012 are to applicants who come from backgrounds which are a target of Oxford’s widening access activities.
These are students from schools and colleges which historically have had limited progression to Oxford; from socio-economically disadvantaged areas; from neighbourhoods with low participation in higher education; and disabled students.
The new approach, agreed with the Office for Fair Access (OFFA), is backed by the most generous no-strings support package in the country, worth more than £22,000 over three years for those from the poorest backgrounds.
The Oxford approach to access uses a special flagging system to ensure that bright students from particularly disadvantaged backgrounds do not get 'lost' before having a chance to show their full potential at interview. Once at interview they compete purely on merit alongside everyone else. 185 candidates who were flagged in this way went on to get an offer for 2012, up from 106 the year before – a 75% increase.
Katherine Birse, who attended UNIQ in 2010 and now studies Medicine at Oxford, says: 'I had such a fantastic time at UNIQ, I couldn't wait to apply for real.
'Oxbridge has always had a sort of aura around it that makes it seem out of reach, but after I attended UNIQ I knew it was the place where I wanted to study and that I had a realistic chance of getting in. The preparation UNIQ gave me for my application made me feel a lot more comfortable about the whole process.'
Peter Blenkharn, another UNIQ student now studying Engineering at Oxford, adds: 'Having just completed my first term at St John's College, the UNIQ summer school seems an age away. Without the experience of the undergraduate lifestyle that UNIQ gave me, I might never have applied to Oxford and would have missed out on the wealth of opportunity.
'UNIQ completely removed all of the stereotypes of Oxford, leaving a friendly, challenging environment where everyone is encouraged to strive for more.'