Oxford’s ‘Welsh College’ secures a £625,000 investment for access
Jesus College, Oxford has been awarded a significant donation from a former student, keen to support its programme to encourage Welsh students from all backgrounds to apply to study at the College.
Jesus College — informally known as Oxford’s Welsh College with 24 Welsh Heads of College from 1571 to 1915 - has been attracting students from less traditionally ‘Oxford’ backgrounds ever since the College’s foundation.
With its 450th birthday in 2021, Jesus College is thrilled to confirm that its flagship access intervention scheme, to support the Welsh Government’s Seren Network programme, has received a very generous donation of £625,000 from an alumnus, who wishes to remain anonymous. This will secure the Jesus-Seren Summer School programme for the foreseeable future, giving future generations of Welsh students the opportunity to attend the College.
College Principal, Sir Nigel Shadbolt, said: 'This generous donation secures a substantial portion of the necessary funding for the College’s Seren Network Summer School. Since its inception in 2017, the programme has been successful in attracting Welsh applicants from state schools to Oxford, with a higher than usual percentage being awarded a place. Our donor has chosen to endow a number of places at the summer school in perpetuity. This is a hugely successful way of widening access and we hope that others might consider helping.'
The Welsh Government’s Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams, said: 'The Welsh Government’s Seren Network programme supports Wales’ brightest students from all backgrounds to reach their academic potential and compete with their counterparts across the World. The collaboration with Oxford University through the Jesus-Seren summer school has been one of the early successes of this investment, as Wales leads the way in creating a dedicated outreach support programme for our most talented young students.
'This significant and generous donation will ensure that future leaders from Wales will be provided with dedicated and bespoke support at the Welsh college at Oxford for many years to come. This raises aspiration, instils confidence, and builds networks for our young people, whatever they choose to do next.
'Wales has strong links with Jesus College going back centuries and I look forward to seeing more of our Seren stars attending the College’s Summer School and perhaps joining the ranks of Oxford’s alumni of eminent broadcasters, academics and political leaders who’ve gone on to create waves around the world.'
Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns, said: “This investment will enable more Welsh students to benefit from an important insight into life at Oxford University, where Welsh students have always played a crucial part in the academic and sporting outlook of the institution.
'I am in regular contact with the University to ensure it continues to extend its access to students in all parts of Wales, and I would encourage those thinking of applying to take up the support on offer through the summer school initiative.'
Since 2017, Jesus College has been working with the Welsh Government’s Seren Network to deliver an all-expenses-paid summer school for state school students. Applications are welcomed from the length and breadth of Wales — which is chronically under-represented at Oxford.
The 2019 Seren Network Summer School is scheduled for 19-23 August and will offer an authentic Oxford experience to 75 students and 11 teachers with the chosen theme of ‘Earth’s Future’.
Of the 74 participants in the 2018 summer school, 41 applied to Oxford, 30 were shortlisted, and 11 have been offered a place (including 1 for Jesus). On its own, the summer school generated 10% of all applications received from Wales to Oxford. And the conversion rate of applications to offers at 27% is significantly above the Oxford average. Therefore, it marks a substantially improved engagement between the University and Welsh state schools.
The College is also delighted to confirm that the historic Jesus Chair of Celtic Studies has [also] been fully endowed this year, securing its future in recognition of the College’s traditions and heritage. The Professorship of Celtic was first held in 1877 by Sir John Rhys, the son of a Welsh farmer and lead miner. He later became Principal of Jesus College in 1895.