students in a seminar
UNIQ students in a seminar
Credit: John Cairns

Oxford Access

As well as a world-class education, Oxford University offers an extraordinary range of opportunities that mean student life here can be pretty much whatever our students want it to be. Contrary to the belief of some, there is no typical student, and no single Oxford experience. Oxford’s students come from every background imaginable. What they do have in common is an ability and motivation for learning and studying. There are currently around 24,000 students from over 140 countries at Oxford, studying here as undergraduates and postgraduates. Their amazing range of stories and interests helps make Oxford one of the most exciting learning environments anywhere.

Undergraduate access at Oxford

Our aim is to inspire and enable talented minds to reach extraordinary futures, at Oxford and beyond. We know that some groups are still under-represented at our University, and we are committed to changing this. We are determined to attract potential from wherever it is to be found, and to be a magnet for able students regionally, nationally and internationally.

Oxford University is known all over the world, and is renowned as a centre of learning that offers rigorous and intellectually-stretching degree courses, but it can feel distant and out of reach to many. Many myths abound around who studies here, how much it costs and what it is like. Oxford’s fame and reputation precede it and we realise that this can be off-putting, especially to those who haven’t yet had a chance to find out what Oxford, or even university more generally, is really like. Some students are still wary of choosing our university so we need to continue to work hard to dispel the myths and help them discover Oxford as it is. We believe that Oxford not only gives fantastic opportunities and is an enjoyable and exciting place to study but that it helps students to develop the self-belief to set them up for the future.

Undergraduate outreach exists to encourage prospective students to apply to Oxford University. We aim to provide guidance and information to all those who are able to make a strong application, but especially those from under-represented groups and those who do not have as much support. We strive to make sure that all talented students can feel confident and excited about applying to Oxford.

More and more people from the groups we’ve been working with have applied to Oxford recently, and many are now studying here. Whilst we are proud of this, we know that the pace of change needs to increase. We are taking a range of actions to ensure this –

  • We have significantly expanded the number of participants on our free and successful UNIQ mentoring programme for UK state school students. This programme gives a taste of Oxford undergraduate student life as well as providing expert advice on the application process for target groups. One or our current ambitions is to increase the regional diversity of our UNIQ students.
  • We continue to work with Target Oxbridge, a free and innovative programme that aims to help black African and Caribbean students and students of mixed race with black African and Caribbean heritage increase their chances of getting into the Universities of Oxford or Cambridge.
  • Oxford colleges have combined forces to form Oxford for UK and offer bespoke support to local students and their wider communities in every region of the UK.
  • The University runs a range of programmes, involving collaborations between schools, education experts at the University and public sector organisations tackling social mobility and social justice, to help raise attainment in schools and encourage applications to selective universities and participation in higher education.
  • Oxford’s financial support package for UK students is one of the most generous available, providing over £8.5 million of financial support to undergraduates from lower-income households. Our ambition is to ensure that no one with outstanding academic potential is deterred from studying here because of their background, personal circumstances, or finances. Around one in four UK students at Oxford currently receive a non-repayable annual bursary, such as an Oxford Bursary or Crankstart Scholarships, which can be worth up to £5,000 per year.

We continue to be determined to improve equality of opportunity at each stage of the student journey. Our key challenge is to improve the opportunities for admission for those from disadvantaged backgrounds who fail to receive an offer, or who, because of prior academic attainment or educational opportunity, are not able to make competitive applications. We have developed two important new initiatives to address this challenge:

  • Opportunity Oxford – This bridging programme is an ambitious academic course that helps to prepare talented UK offer-holders from under-represented backgrounds for successful student careers at our University. We aim to offer 200 places a year by 2021 for 2022 entry.
  • Astrophoria Foundation Year – This one-year foundation year programme is for UK state school students with significant academic potential, who have experienced severe personal disadvantage and/or disrupted education which has resulted in them being unable to apply directly for an Oxford undergraduate degree programme. Students will be supported through a challenging academic course; on condition that they have completed their foundation year at the required level, students will progress onto their chosen undergraduate degree course at Oxford. Up to 50 places will be offered each year, with the first students being admitted for entry in September 2023.

There’s much more detail on who attends Oxford in the Annual Admissions Statistical Report available at ox.ac.uk/adstats

The University has access targets which form part of the Access and Participation Plan between the University of Oxford and the Office for Students. Our Access and Participation Plan is available to download.

If you are a current Oxford student and would like to help with our undergraduate access programmes, please contact us at: ambassadors@admin.ox.ac.uk

Graduate access at Oxford

In the last few years, the University has been very proactive in developing strategies and initiatives to increase the number of promising postgraduate students from under-represented and disadvantaged groups at Oxford. A cross-institutional Graduate Access Working Group has been established to improve access and widening participation into graduate study for disadvantaged and under-represented groups. Under the aegis of this Working Group, a substantial number of initiatives, some of which are sector-leading, have been implemented.

You can explore our current access initiatives, including Academic Futures and UNIQ+, on the Graduate Access webpages.

In 2019, we launched our UNIQ+ programme that provides paid research internships for those from disadvantaged backgrounds and from other groups underrepresented at the University of Oxford. The programme offers students the opportunity to experience graduate study at Oxford and receive a range of skills training and information sessions. UNIQ+ 2022 provided 120 students with postgraduate research experience through a fully-paid internship and internships were offered in 36 departments across four academic divisions. Alongside UNIQ+, 12 ten-week UNIQ+ DeepMind research internships in artificial intelligence and machine learning were offered in 2022.

We operate an application fee waiver scheme for students from low-income countries, refugees and for UK applicants from low-income backgrounds. Also, all UNIQ+ eligible applicants, whether or not they have been successful in obtaining an internship, receive an application fee waiver if they decide to apply for graduate study at Oxford. 

Our Black Academic Futures Scholarships, launched in 2020, offer Black and Mixed-Black students financial support to pursue doctoral research at Oxford. The scholarship funding is also accompanied by a programme of targeted activities from pre-application to on-course, including bespoke mentoring and support. Thanks to the generous support of funding partners across the University and colleges, the scholarship programme will continue to expand in scope and scale for the 2023-24 academic year, with more dedicated awards available for eligible candidates than ever before. To date, funding for up to 30 awards has been offered.

The scholarships are open to all academic subjects and include both taught (masters) and research programmes. Alongside, Black Academic Futures, the Refugee Academic Futures scheme will offer financial support to pursue graduate study at Oxford to students who are refugees or other people with lived experience of displacement. We continue to seek funding partners for Academic Futures awards as we pursue our strategic goal to increase the number of graduate scholarships available at Oxford for under-represented groups, as part of our commitment to create 300 additional graduate scholarships by 2023.

We have also collated a list of other graduate funding opportunities for disadvantaged and under-represented groups that have been launched by the University and colleges.

Inspired by initial measures taken in some academic departments, we launched a pilot on the selection procedure for graduate applications in 2020 to explore actions aimed at better contextualising our admissions procedures for graduate students while minimising conscious and unconscious bias. The pilot will be continuing for the 2022/23 admissions cycle (for 2023/24 entry) and has further expanded to include more courses and departments.  Academic departments taking part in the pilot will use one or more of the following measures or interventions in the selection of applications:

  • Taking into consideration applicant socio-economic data collected in the application form (measure taken by all courses)
  • Anonymising applications
  • Using a standard format for the CV and statement of purpose
  • Collecting an applicant contextual statement
  • Collecting specific questions from referees
  • Taking positive action by inviting to interview Black British applicants who meet the entry requirements

A full list of courses taking part in the pilot and information for applicants is available on our website.

The ‘Close the Gap’ project is an equal partnership between the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge and is one of 13 projects partially funded by the Office for Students and Research England to improve access to doctoral study for UK Black, Asian and minority ethnic students.

Close the Gap aims to develop and test new disciplinary-specific, race-literate, fair selection processes that are designed to bring about meaningful change in doctoral candidate selection, and in particular to address the underrepresentation of Black British, British Bangladeshi and British Pakistani students in postgraduate research in the UK overall, and in all major discipline groups at doctoral level in the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.  Read more about Close the Gap including an initial pilot working with Rare Recruitment, leaders in diversity graduate recruitment.