The Oxford skyline.
The Oxford skyline.

Oxford outreach networks to expand under new scheme

Oxford University has won a series of government grants to develop local and national networks and coordinate outreach activities in state schools across England. 

The University is a member of three new National Networks for Collaborative Outreach (NNCO) as part of a £22m scheme that aims to encourage more young people into higher education.

Oxford will lead the Oxford and Cambridge NNCO, which will aim to offer specific support to students hoping to study at Oxford and Cambridge by reaching out to students and teachers in more than 1,600 schools across England. The collaboration will build on the current information and advice already offered to students and teachers, but enhanced by activities including a new interactive website, online webinars with admissions staff from Oxford and Cambridge, and more resources for activities in local schools linked to Oxford and Cambridge colleges.

Dr Samina Khan, director of undergraduate admissions at Oxford University, said: 'This new national network from Oxford and Cambridge is an exciting initiative that will explore news ways of engaging with schools, teachers and students to encourage them to apply to either university.

'Oxford and Cambridge already collaborate on many outreach activities designed to reach bright students from all backgrounds across the country, and we are excited that this new network will complement our existing extensive outreach with the chance to reach even more students who may need extra support and encouragement in applying.'

Greg Clark, Minister for Universities and Science, said: 'This programme will ensure that schools and colleges across England can help their students learn about higher education in the classroom, online and through local outreach activity.

'A record number of students entered higher education in 2014, with entry rates for students from disadvantaged backgrounds increasing by over 10% to its highest ever level. However there is still more work to do to ensure all students who want to study hard can benefit, irrespective of their background.'

Oxford and Cambridge universities' new collaboration will include a new website that offers schools a single resource setting out the outreach and widening participation activities of both institutions, including national events, local information about area contacts and joint activities being offered. Online webinars with admissions staff from both universities will make it easier to make contact with students and schools from hard to reach geographic areas, and those schools with limited numbers of high-achieving students each year.

The new network will aim to work with state schools across England with particular emphasis on those in areas that currently have little engagement with Oxford and Cambridge outreach; those in schools offering post-16 (GCSE) education; those from schools with low progression to Oxford or Cambridge, or from areas of socioeconomic disadvantage.

Oxford will also be part of the Study Higher NNCO in collaboration with Oxford Brookes, Reading and Buckinghamshire New universities. This local partnership will build on the outreach already being undertaken by the universities locally, including Oxford’s widening participation work such as its COMPASS programme for young carers and through the Oxford Deanery.

The University through Somerville College will also play a role in the The Widening Participation Collaborative Group NNCO, in collaboration with Keele University, Staffordshire University, University of Derby, University of Chester, Harper Adams University, Manchester Metropolitan University, and Reaseheath College.

The National Networks for Collaborative Outreach (NNCO) aims to deliver a nationally coordinated approach to working with schools, universities and colleges to help people access higher education. It will operate for the academic years 2014/15 and 205/15 and will be funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and managed by HEFCE. The three national networks will offer specific support to care leavers, older learners and learners aspiring to progress to Oxford and Cambridge.