Throughout Oxford University, access teams have been busily welcoming a new year’s worth of potential future undergraduates.
Numerous colleges have been running access events and tours for secondary school students wishing to get a glimpse of what studying at Oxford is like. JCR Access and Admissions officer for Oriel, Emma Williams described a typical secondary school visit: ‘On the average school visit, we eat lunch in Hall, have a College tour and then an open ended student Q&A.”
She went on to explain: “I really enjoy hosting access visits to Oriel and think they are a great way to shed light on what Oriel and Oxford is really like.”
However Sophie, a first year Law student who runs access tours in Hertford College, expressed her view that access visits presented a danger of portraying a rose-tinted view of Oxford, when in fact “in lots of ways Oxford is a bit weird, has particular hoops to jump through, and I think there should be openness about ways the university should improve as well as presenting the unified shiny front of saying Oxford is all wonderful.”
Despite this danger, Sophie echoed Williams in valuing the way in which access visits provide an opportunity to correct false impressions of Oxford: “I guess there’s always going to be particular ideas of what Oxford is like that are in lots of ways not like the reality … like no, we don’t wear robes ALL the time. Just on special occasions … or in some colleges every night at dinner … So those perceptions are hard to tackle because in many ways they’re true.”
Alys Key, who recently showed an access group from Visit University (an organisation which gives international students a chance to visit top universities) around The Oxford Student offices, described one instance in which a student appeared to have misconceptions of the University: “When taking questions, one of them asked if they would find true love. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that the most romantic thing I’ve ever seen here is the “wall of shame/fame” which charted who had got with each other at socials.”