Oxbuddy, a new access initiative to pair potential Oxford applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds with current students, was launched on Tuesday.
The scheme aims to increase the chances of a successful application by demystifying the process and offering practical advice to pupils for whom it is otherwise hard to come by. PPE undergraduate, Olly Boyland, who co-founded the scheme with Rochelle Moss, told The Oxford Student: “Unfortunately, many students from deprived backgrounds have little support from their school and don’t know anyone who’s been through the admissions process before so have no one to turn to with any concerns.”
The scheme is actively seeking to make links with state schools across the country, with the aid of “helpers with knowledge of specific areas.” Although Boyland adds: “We are always open to suggestions from anyone if they believe that a school that they went to or one in their area needs support.”
They seek to allay the concerns of those potential student participants who may “feel like [they’re] becoming responsible for a young student’s academic future!” However, they do disclaim that the applicants will not be receiving professional advice. They direct people towards the University website as a source of advice about admissions but say that they, Rochelle and Olly, “are always on hand to offer support.”
Students who sign-up to the scheme are expected to respond to emails from applicants, answer questions about applying and provide information applicants may otherwise struggle to find out.
While conceding that Oxbuddy will not solve the access issue, the founders hope that: “it will make a difference.” The goal is that applicants who don’t already know people at Oxford and are not supported by their schools are “encouraged to apply,” as the process is clarified by “speaking to a person studying at Oxford.”
Boyland and Moss indicate that participating in the programme will also be a beneficial experience for students. Saying “We believe it’ll be beneficial to those at Oxford too.” As helping someone who lacks additional support “will be an incredibly rewarding experience.”
Safeguarding and data protection issues are both covered with Boyland adding: “Of course, their personal contact details are never shared and all communication is moderated by people who are safeguarding trained.”
Oxbuddy has had some immediate success with over 150 people signing up to be buddies within the first 24 hours. Moss told The Oxford Student: “it’s pretty incredible, I think it just shows how needed this scheme really is and how access is such an important issue to lots of people at oxford.” She hopes it: “means oxbuddy actually has the potential to make a large impact.”
39.5% of all new entrants to Oxford in 2018 went to an independent school, a markedly higher level than the percentage of the population who go to private schools overall. It is hoped that schemes which make the application process easier for disadvantaged students will decrease that disparity.
Students can find more information on the Facebook page at Oxbuddy or via their website.