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

Oxford Access

Oxford’s students and staff come from every background imaginable. There are 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 as well as one with extraordinary resources to offer its students.

Undergraduate access at Oxford

There is universal agreement that Oxford needs to make more rapid progress in diversifying its undergraduate student body. Diversity is important as a social good in its own right, and it is manifestly in Oxford’s self-interest – for the University to continue to thrive, we need to recruit the best people from all backgrounds. Greater diversity will strengthen the University’s intellectual vitality.

Some groups are still under-represented in our university and we want this to change. We want to attract potential from wherever it is found, and to be a magnet for talent regionally, nationally and internationally.

We know that some of the most talented students in schools in the UK think of Oxford as out of reach, and many people have an inaccurate view of who studies here, what it costs, and what it is like. Outdated stereotypes can put off candidates from choosing a university they would enjoy and which would give them fantastic opportunities for the future. If great candidates don’t apply, we’re missing out, and we think they’re missing out too.

We’ve been making enormous efforts to explain Oxford to those who may not have thought it was for them, to show what we offer, and to encourage high-achieving students to apply. More and more people from the groups we have been working to attract have been applying here, and many are now studying here. We continue to take a number of actions to increase the pace of change, most recently expanding the number of participants on our very successful UNIQ summer school and removing financial barriers to attending admissions interviews by offering travel expenses to those students most in need of support.

We are also reviewing further changes to our outreach programmes, admissions processes and financial support packages to ensure that any student who has the talent and commitment to succeed as an undergraduate at Oxford has the opportunity to do just that.

These pages tell you about some of our initiatives, the things we’ll be doing in the future, and the progress we’re making. If you’re a potential candidate, or know of one, why not find out more and look at ox.ac.uk/study

There’s much more detail on this 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.

In 2019, we launched our UNIQ+ programme that provides paid research internships for those from disadvantaged and underrepresented groups at the University Oxford. The programme offers students the opportunity to experience graduate study at Oxford and receive a range of skills training and information sessions. UNIQ+ 2021 provided 67 students with postgraduate research experience through a fully-paid remote internship and internships were offered in all four academic divisions. Alongside UNIQ+, six Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarships were offered in 2021, providing lab-based placements in-person in Oxford.

In 2020, due to the covid-19 pandemic, we ran an alternative digital programme for those applicants who we might wish to encourage to apply to graduate study at Oxford or elsewhere in the future. The digital programme was redeveloped and expanded for 2021 and UNIQ+ Digital provided information on graduate study and how to make a competitive application to 170 students through a flexible online programme of events, talks and workshops, together with individual academic and student mentoring.

We operate an application fee waiver scheme for students from low-income countries 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. These application fee waiver schemes have expanded for 2022-23 entry, covering a larger number of applicants.

Our Black Academic Futures Scholarships, launched in 2020, offered 13 UK 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 is expanding in scope and scale for the 2022-23 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 now include both taught (masters) and research programmes. 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 of 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 2021/22 admissions cycle (for 2022/23 entry), and has expanded to include 43 courses.  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.

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