New access scheme to target “low participation neighbourhoods”

News

Oxford University has unveiled plans to offer more assistance to students from underprivileged backgrounds in an access agreement published on Tuesday 12th July.

In an agreement with the Office of Fair Access, the plans will come into effect from 2012 along with the new £9,000 tuition fee level. The plans will aim to target neighbourhoods with low participation in higher education, as well as to 2,276 state and independent schools with what the report described as historically “limited progression” to the University.

Despite setting goals to recruit underprivileged students, Oxford will continue to judge applicants solely on academic merit. The agreement stated: “We seek to attract the most able candidates regardless of their socio-economic, ethnic, or educational background.”

According to the document, 9.4% of last year’s accepted applicants were from “low participation neighbourhoods.” The University plans to increase this number by 0.5% per year until it reaches 13% in 2016.

“I think that it is important that the University is recognising its duty to attract students from non-traditional backgrounds,” said OUSU president Martha Mackenzie. “In promising to attract the brightest students in the country based only on ability, it is necessary that areas in which this mission is specifically failing are targeted.”

Oxford will also aim for 25% of its student body to come from limited progression schools by 2016. Currently, these students make up 21.5%.

Access agreements were required this week from any university charging over £6,000. Although Oxford will charge the £9,000 maximum tuition fee, tuition waivers and bursaries will offset this for students from low-income families.

Actual charges will range from £3,500 to £9,000 per year. In 2012, the average annual tuition fee of an English University will be £8,393, compared to an Oxford average fee of £7,549.

Mackenzie said she viewed fee waivers as an important step toward minimising debt: “A headline figure of £9000 can be incredibly damaging to access and fee waivers go some way towards addressing this”.