Image copyright Ed Salter
More than 140 students and teachers attended the event in London.

Oxford launches ethnic minority student access conference

Oxford University is targeting ethnic minority students with a new event designed to encourage potential Oxford applicants. 

The first Oxford Annual Access Conference (AAC) was held on Friday 11 July and will be an annual event designed to support state schools in assisting their students of black and minority ethnic (BME) origin to make competitive applications to Oxford.

More than 140 BME students and their teachers from state schools in London attended the event, which was led by the Oxford African and Caribbean Society and supported by the University's Undergraduate Admissions team. The event included a question and answer session with current BME Oxford students about their experiences applying and studying at Oxford. It also featured myth busting and speed networking sessions, and activities specifically designed for teachers covering the application process.

Dr Samina Khan, Deputy Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach at Oxford University, said: 'Oxford’s students are its best ambassadors and this event has demonstrated that. We want BME students to know that Oxford wants applications from students of all backgrounds, and the most powerful way to reinforce that message is for them to see positive examples from their own schools or neighbourhoods.

'There are so many myths about Oxford that can potentially deter BME students from even applying, and we felt it was vital to address these myths head-on and show the benefits Oxford has to offer high-achieving BME students. Having so many current students and alumni present to talk about their own experiences and how they benefited from their time at Oxford really added to the day's events. I look forward to running a similar conference again next year alongside our other outreach activities.'

Hope Levy-Shepherd, president of the African and Caribbean Society, said: 'We had three goals in putting together this event: to increase the chance of high attaining BME students making informed and well-prepared applications to Oxford; to provide a unique platform for pupils to ask questions and engage with relatable student role models of BME origin at Oxford; to assist teachers in providing guidance and support to young people as they consider Higher Education options. Pupils attending the event came from boroughs all across London, and we know that this representation will only increase as the conference grows year on year.

'What makes the Oxford AAC different is the fact that Oxford BME students play such a crucial role in its running. Our ACS members hosted the day, led many of the interactive sessions and networked with pupils over lunch. The welcoming and open environment that this fosters can't be underestimated. Not only did pupils leave the conference feeling as though they had learnt more about Oxford as an institution, but they were able to learn about Oxford University from its own current students – often ones who have come from their own ethnic backgrounds, secondary schools and local communities.'

The Annual Access Conference is a joint venture between Oxford's African and Caribbean society and the University's Undergraduate Admissions Office to provide a platform for students to raise concerns specific to BME applicants about the application process and life as an ethnic minority student at Oxford. The conference is primarily targeted at state school students of BME origin in Key Stages 4 and 5, with a particular focus on students of African and Caribbean descent.

The percentage of all Oxford students of known ethnicity who are BME (black and minority ethnic) is 24%. This includes undergraduates and postgraduates, across all years, of all nationalities. The proportion of UK undergraduate students of known ethnicity who are BME is 13%.