Oxford announces expansion of graduate access programme

1 October 2021

A graduate scholarship programme aimed at under-represented groups at Oxford University is set to expand over the next 12 months, thanks to the generosity of external donors.

The Black Academic Futures programme launched in 2020, with the aim of providing 10 scholarships annually for Black UK research students. Funded by the University and a number of University colleges, the first cohort of scholars will soon embark on 2021-22 academic year.

Now, the generosity of external donors, including the trading firm Jane Street, and contributions from the University, and colleges, means that up to 30 full graduate scholarships will be available to Black and Mixed-Black UK students for the 2022-23 academic year. The awards are open to eligible students across all subject areas at all Oxford colleges, and will include taught Master’s courses as well as graduate research courses. Each scholarship covers all course fees in full and provides a grant for living costs. Jane Street is funding four scholarships: two in the Departments of Mathematics and Statistics and two in Computer Science.

Black Academic Futures was created as a direct response to statistical evidence that Black UK graduate research students are particularly under-represented at Oxford (around 1.4% of all postgraduate research students compared with 4.2% across the UK sector). The initiative builds on ongoing efforts to increase the number of postgraduate students from under-represented groups at the University. This includes the UNIQ+ programme, which provides research internships for prospective students from disadvantaged backgrounds, who may find progressing to postgraduate study challenging for reasons other than their academic ability.

The programme aims to transform this position by rapidly increasing both applications from, and funded places for well-qualified UK Black graduate students. In doing so, it will build on the University’s commitment to making postgraduate study more accessible to talented applicants of all backgrounds. Black Academic Futures also reaffirms the University’s commitment to addressing race equality, combatting discrimination and building an inclusive postgraduate community, where all members feel welcome, valued and respected.

Professor Louise Richardson, Vice Chancellor at Oxford University, said: ‘I am absolutely delighted by the expansion of our Black Academic Futures programme. Together with UNIQ+ and our graduate internship initiative, it will help us to make an Oxford graduate education open to more smart students from under-represented backgrounds. We hope that their opportunities will be transformed and that they, in turn, will serve as both magnets and role models for other students.’

Sandor Lehoczy, Principal at Jane Street, said: ‘At Jane Street we're always exploring new ways to find and develop talented individuals. We're thrilled to partner with Black Academic Futures to help underrepresented groups build careers in STEM fields.’

Kim Nicholson, incoming scholar studying for a DPhil in History, said: ‘The BAF information sessions genuinely were one of the biggest influences on my decision to apply to Oxford. Until then, I had not realised that applications are assessed based on academic potential. Up until that point, I was worried that I didn't have the strongest undergrad degree and my MA might not be enough to compensate but once I knew that the potential for academic growth was also considered, I felt massively encouraged. It was also encouraging to be able to ask other people of colour for advice and to hear about their experiences.’

Notes to Editors:

For further information please contact Lanisha Butterfield, Communications Manager Education and Admissions, Oxford University, on 01865 280531 or Lanisha.butterfield@admin.ox.ac.uk

Additional quotes:
David Gavaghan, who chairs the University’s Graduate Access Working Group, commented: ‘The additional funding provided by the University will allow us to build on the success of the first year of the programme by supporting many more students across both post graduate research and, for the first time, post-graduate taught courses. In many disciplines, master’s programmes provide an essential bridge into research, and so this move will open up the Black Academic Futures Programme to all students who have the potential to benefit from postgraduate study at Oxford.’

Kayo Akpobaro, incoming scholar studying for a DPhil in Clinical Neurosciences, said: ‘Knowing that the university offers such opportunities and continues to expand on them, takes a lot, if not all the pressure off with regards to worries about funding. Importantly, it allowed me to make a more balanced decision as to whether the PhD was an endeavour I actually wanted to pursue or not.’

Kim Nicholson, incoming scholar studying for a DPhil in History, said: ‘I was really stunned when I found out I'd been offered a place. Despite being really excited, I did have some concerns about financing the PhD. I'd planned to apply for the government loan which would have left me with a bit of a shortfall but I was willing to find a way to afford the PhD. It was another massive shock to find out I'd been awarded the scholarship - it felt like a huge weight had been lifted. Knowing that I wouldn't need to worry about finances meant that I could accept my place.’