UNIQ summer school students spend a free week in Oxford.
UNIQ students spend a free week in Oxford with current Oxford students and academics.

Image credit: John Cairns

Oxford's inspiring summer school targets under-represented regions

Applications open this week for Oxford's newly-expanded UNIQ Summer School, as the University launches its campaign to recruit students from disadvantaged areas to the inspirational scheme.

UNIQ gives state school pupils a free week-long insight into study at Oxford, breaking down myths, taking them into labs and lecture theatres, and giving tips on applying and interviews.

From this summer, UNIQ is expanding the places available by 50 percent from 850 to 1,350. Applications open on 3 December and a new recruitment campaign will target students from the backgrounds and regions of the UK which the University has found hardest to reach in the past.

UNIQ targets students from those state schools and areas which are under-represented among Oxford undergraduates. They spend a week in Oxford living in a college and learning about the life of an Oxford undergraduate. They take tutorials, lectures and some will even take laboratory classes. If they go on to apply to Oxford, students taking part in UNIQ have a much better success rate than the average applicant. Around 7,200 state school students have attended the summer school since 2010 and nearly 1,400 of them have then become Oxford students.

I really do think I owe my place at Oxford to UNIQ – without it I wouldn’t have even applied, and it proved an interesting conversation starter in my interviews!

Charlotte, third-year student, UNIQ 2015

The University of Oxford's Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson said: 'The UNIQ programme gives pupils the opportunity to make a decision for themselves about whether Oxford will be right for them. They spend a week living in Oxford colleges, eating in hall and socialising with current undergraduates.

'We know that Oxford will not be everyone's choice. Some students will want to live in a bigger city, others will want to be closer to home, others will prefer large group learning to our one-to-one tutorials. Some though, will decide to pursue their studies here with us. My message to academically driven students and their teachers is simple: encourage your best students to apply to Oxford.'

Oxford Student Union President Joe Inwood attended UNIQ. He said: 'I believe the expansion of UNIQ has the potential to be transformational. There is no substitute for spending time here, seeing the colleges, libraries and laboratories, and talking to current students. The investment UNIQ made in me back in 2014 changed my life just like for so many others.

'At the student union, we believe access doesn't stop at admissions, and there is still much work for us all to do. But to anyone who has thought of Oxford but is hesitating like I did – apply. You can grow and thrive here, you can find your place without losing who you are, and most importantly, your presence here is part of a great and exciting change in this university.'

A couple of years ago, I never imagined that I would be a student here and I am so glad that I took myself out of my comfort zone and filled in an application form for UNIQ, which ultimately led me to where I am today.

Eleanor, first-year student, UNIQ 2017

Katie Wilson, a second-year languages undergraduate from Gateshead who attended UNIQ in 2016, said: 'The phrase “it changed my life” is clichéd, but UNIQ genuinely did. All because the tutors and student helpers convinced me I'd be wanted in a place like Oxford.

'I remind myself of what UNIQ taught me almost every day: believe you’re clever, trust your instincts, listen, but be confident in your ideas. We simply aren’t taught confidence at school, which is key in making the most of Oxford’s tutorial setting. With UNIQ I could bridge the gap between university and A Level approaches to learning.'

More student testimonials about the impact of UNIQ are online here.

The expansion is one just part of Oxford's commitment to widen access to University places and expand the diversity of its student intake. The University is currently reviewing further changes to its outreach programmes, admissions processes and financial support packages. The aim is to make sure that any student with the talent and commitment to succeed as an Oxford undergraduate gets the chance to do so.

Around one in three UNIQ students who apply to Oxford are successful in receiving offers. An evaluation in 2016 by the Institute of Employment studies found: 'The evidence relating to UNIQ is clear and positive. . . The positive impact of UNIQ attendance on shortlisting was so great that UNIQ attendees’ chances of getting shortlisted were higher than of applicants from independent schools, holding attainment and other factors constant.'

UNIQ's expansion will be funded from the generous donation made to Oxford by the businessman and philanthropist Sir Michael Moritz and his wife, the novelist Harriet Heyman. At the same time, the Moritz-Heyman Scholarship Programme for undergraduates from the lowest income families, which the couple fund, will also expand.