More than 70 talented black teenagers from across the country have visited Oxford University for the first time, as part of the Target Oxbridge residential experience this week.
The free programme, which is having growing influence increasing successful undergraduate applications from black African and Caribbean and Mixed Heritage students, is a partnership between by diversity recruitment specialists, Rare and Oxford and Cambridge.
The immersive three day experience organised by the University’s Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach department is offered as part of a development programme, which is intended to do exactly what its name suggests: provide Year 12 participants with the support and practical advice that they need to make competitive applications to Oxford or Cambridge University. Over the course of the year building up to UCAS applications, participants receive regular one-one mentoring, residential opportunities and support with super-curricular engagement.
During the course of their visit to Oxford, the students were able to experience all aspects of University life. From academic workshops and tutorials matched to their A-level subject choices, to meeting and building relationships with current students and staff, including Professor Martin Williams, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education. Students were able to experience everyday University life, while staying at Christ Church College.
Andi Marsh, a third-year Classics student at Balliol College and Target Oxbridge Ambassador, said: ‘Inequality in education makes me really angry, and outreach is a passion of mine. When you are the only black face in the room and you get a bad mark, you can feel like you are representing all black people. But, with Target Oxbridge, you look around the room and see people that are bright, your age and look just like you. I hope they find it reassuring and it makes them realise that we can all do it!
‘I didn’t know about Target Oxbridge when I was at school, which is a real shame, because I know I would have benefited.’
Talking to the participants themselves, it was clear that the experience was having a lasting effect.
Tayari, 17, from East London, said: ‘The whole thing has been really informative, and just good in general. I didn’t think Oxford was diverse, but seeing black students and staff makes me feel good about maybe coming here. This would be somewhere that would be interesting to study and I wouldn’t feel alone. I’ve enjoyed it all, but the tutorials, talking to alumni and students sharing their experiences has been so useful.’
Now in its fourth year, the University’s delivery of the programme continues to thrive, with 27 Black and mixed heritage students that took part in the programme securing offers from Oxford this year alone. More black and ethnic minority students are choosing Oxford than ever before.
The changing face of the University did not go unnoticed by participants, with one commenting, ‘I didn’t think I would see anyone that looked like me, it’s such a relief that I have.’
Fis Noibi, a Target Oxbridge alumna currently studying French and Arabic at Somerville College, Oxford said: ‘Oxbridge myths and the ‘it’s not for you’ vibe can be really discouraging. But with Target Oxbridge you get to see for yourself what Oxford is really like. Meeting people that look just like you, and seeing for yourself that we’re not just existing at Oxford, we’re thriving!’
Vanessa Worthington, Outreach Solutions Coordinator (BAME Projects), Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach, said: ‘Working within Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach has given me the opportunity to connect with, support and encourage talented students from black and other ethnic minority backgrounds. Programmes such as Target Oxbridge demonstrate how Oxford’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity can and does have a real and meaningful impact in inspiring the next generation of prospective undergraduate students’.
Target Oxbridge also aims to help participants make confident, informed decision about their university choice and future in general.
Programme founder Naomi Kellman, Senior Manager for Schools and Universities at Rare, and an Oxford alumna herself, said: ‘This year's Target Oxbridge residential visit to Oxford was brilliant. We were welcomed by a wide range of colleges and departments, and the students loved having the chance to stay at Christ Church College. It was wonderful to have so many student ambassadors supporting the visit, and the fact that a number of them were Target Oxbridge alumni demonstrates the impact of the programme. I hope to have a number of our current Target Oxbridge students back here as mentors in two years' time.’
The visit is the first of two bi-annual Target Oxbridge residential programmes, with the later running during the summer break.