Outreach varies wildly across colleges

News

Our investigation also reveals for the first time the vast disparity in the amount of work done by different Oxford colleges to boost applications from state schools.

Some colleges held more than 20 times more ‘outreach’ events than others. The most active college, Univ, ran 340 events over the last three years, while the least active college, Somerville, ran just 13.

The disparities were just as stark between different faculties of the University, with Classics running more than double the number of events run by every other department put together.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show:
* The top three colleges for access events were Univ (340), Christ Church (171) and Exeter (127)
* The colleges that held the fewest events were Somerville (13), Hertford (16), LMH (16) and Teddy Hall (17)
* The Cambridge Admissions Office ran less than half the number of events run by its Oxford equivalent over the same period

Though a University spokeswoman emphasised that the disparities were down to “differing resources rather than differing commitment”, the top colleges were at pains to highlight the extra work they have put into widening admissions.

Anne-Marrie Canning, Univ’s full-time Access Officer, said: “The buy in from staff, students and fellow is what enables us to provide such a large amount of diverse outreach. Until 2007, Univ had limited provision in terms of school outreach. We now have 1.5 people working with schools and the ambassador scheme is really key in delivering events.

“We have an emphasis on building teacher relationships, working with parents and providing a strand of academic enrichment in our events. We are keen to constantly evaluate and improve the activities we offer.”

While Univ alone employs the equivalent of one-and-a-half full-time members of staff devoted to access, the central University as a whole only employs six members of staff to organise regional conferences for students and teachers and co-ordinate outreach work across Oxford.

Alice Prochaska, Somerville’s Principal, said she is “a strong believer in the importance of outreach” and that the College’s fellows are “keen to try new things, and to reach out in imaginative ways to attract the very best students.

“We only have the resources for six hours a week work on formal outreach, and I suspect the low number of events logged on the database reflects that,” she added.