Spires and top of crenelated wall of the Bodleian
Spires of the Bodleian Library
(Image Credit: Liam Peck / Graduate Photography Competition)

Close the Gap

Eight departments – two in each of four divisions in the University of Oxford (Humanities; Medical Sciences; Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences; and Social Sciences) – are taking part in Close the Gap.

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

Close the Gap has developed and is testing new disciplinary-specific, race-literate, fair selection processes that are designed to bring about meaningful change in postgraduate research and doctoral candidate selection. In particular, it is working 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.

Visit the Close the Gap website

What initiatives are we taking?

Working with external partners and collaborators Blueprint for All, CRAC, Rare Recruitment and Leading Routes, Close the Gap is trialling a number of initiatives in some of the participating departments this year. These include:

Improving applicant and supervisor guidelines and information

This initiative aims to improve transparency in the application process, by improving guidelines for applicants and supervisors on contacting supervisors at the pre-application stage, and what to expect.

Improving the design and use of assessment and selection criteria: this initiative reviews assessment and selection criteria with the aim of better assessing research potential, and has developed guidelines and support materials on assessing applications from applicants with non-traditional academic or work trajectories, or from diverse backgrounds.

Using socio-economic data in the assessment and selection process

The University currently collects socio-economic data from candidates who apply for graduate study. Where provided by candidates, this information is used for research purposes, to understand the demographics of those applying and of those who are offered places. This data is also used by the courses taking part in this initiative to better understand the context of an applicant’s achievements and the challenges that they might have faced in their education to date. This data may be used at several stages in the assessment and selection process.

Coaching and support

All departmental staff involved in implementing interventions are being supported through technical briefings, for example, on how to use contextual data, as well as wider coaching to support change management and specific aspects of assessment (eg interviewing).

Courses participating in Close the Gap

This list will continue to be updated as courses are opened to accept applications. Please check back regularly for updates.

Developing a strategic admissions framework

Close the Gap is also contributing to the develop of a strategic admissions framework to embed its work and that of all other widening participation initiatives at the level of the University. Through fair and just postgraduate taught and research admissions and recruitment processes, the University of Oxford aims to contribute to a more plural, diverse, and, hence, richer research and teaching environment.