Students meet Oxford's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Irene Tracey and Astrophoria Director, Jo Begbie, during their orientation week
Students meet Oxford's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Irene Tracey and Astrophoria Director, Jo Begbie, during their orientation week

Oxford’s first Astrophoria Foundation Year students share their experiences

Last October, twenty-two young people from across the UK began their studies at Oxford, becoming the first students on the University’s innovative new access programme, the Astrophoria Foundation Year.

Here, some of this year’s students reflect on their first term at Oxford, what they think of the city, and what they’re looking forward to over the next term.

Yihao, from Manchester, is studying Chemistry at Exeter College.

Chemistry student Yihao during his first term as an Astrophoria student at OxfordChemistry student Yihao during his first term as an Astrophoria student at Oxford
“One of the most captivating aspects of the Chemistry course at Oxford is its depth and breadth. The hands-on laboratory sessions have been a highlight, offering a practical dimension to theoretical concepts. Moreover, the opportunity to engage in thought-provoking discussions with peers and expert faculty during tutorials has been intellectually stimulating.

“During my busiest week, I usually have three lectures, three classes, three tutorials, and a three-hour lab. Lectures last an hour each, while classes and tutorials extend to 1.5 hours. Additionally, there are sporadic Preparation for Undergraduate Study events in the evenings which sometimes feature talks that students can attend.

“Stepping into my first formal dinner event at Somerville College during Orientation week marked a truly unique and exhilarating experience, especially as everything was completely unfamiliar to me. The grandeur of the occasion, from the elegant setting to the formalities observed, added to the sense of novelty and excitement. Moreover, collaboration with fellow students has been an incredibly fulfilling aspect of my academic journey. Exchanging ideas, collectively navigating the challenges of academia, and supporting one another has enriched the overall learning environment.”

Bassam, originally from Iraq, is studying Law at Keble College.

Bassam (on the right) is studying LawBassam (on the right) is studying Law
“The tutorials have been a highlight of the course. They tend to be very small, often including only two students. This has made learning easier and more informative since the tutor can fully focus on you. Having such a focus has been very helpful in making sure the content we learn is fully understood, especially when it comes to law and how complex it can get at times.

“The first few weeks were spent getting to know the Astrophoria Foundation Year cohort and settling into Keble College. Fresher’s Fair was definitely a highlight as you get introduced to many clubs and societies. A lot of them hold taster sessions, which I recommend trying out. The majority of taster sessions will be at sports clubs like powerlifting and archery, and if you have the time, definitely try them out as you get to meet a lot of people from different colleges.

“The Astrophoria Foundation Year also attends a lot of Society & Culture events that familiarise you with Oxford such as Union debates and requiems. One event I attended this term was a Mozart Requiem at Merton College.”

Nayab, from Birmingham, is studying Chemistry at St Anne's College.

Nayab is studying at St Anne's CollegeNayab is studying at St Anne's College
“I am enjoying the challenging aspect of my course the most. I enjoy the rewarding feeling I receive after understanding the difficult problems set in the tutorial sessions. This experience has frequently occurred during the Maths units. Topics are not entirely new to me but different perspectives are required to solve the problems we are set. This is helping me to develop the skillset which will be required for my degree.

“Typically, we have a practical lab session once a week (sometimes not if we have a lot of tutorial questions to be done). We also have lectures which are followed by classes and tutorials. This all adds up to around 3 lectures, 3 classes and 3 tutorials in a week.

“There is a lot of work to be done but we can always email our tutors with questions, and they are happy to provide us with advice and guidance. This helps with getting through the work quickly. Despite the significant workload I have found that there is always time to get involved in other activities that are happening in my college or the wider university outside of the Chemistry course.”


The Astrophoria Foundation Year provides a fully funded one-year course for UK state school students who have experienced disadvantage or disruption during their education to help bridge the gap between A-levels and the challenging undergraduate degrees at Oxford.

Students can study one of four foundation courses; Humanities (Classics, History, English and Theology); Chemistry, Engineering and Materials Science; Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE); or Law, as well as Preparation for Undergraduate Study modules, and receive free tuition and accommodation, as well as a non-repayable bursary to cover their living costs.

Find out more about the Astrophoria Foundation Year and how to apply before the 31 January deadline here.