Access to opportunity

16th February 2016

News, Alumni news

With a student body among the most diverse in the University of Oxford, Wadham has at its core the aim of demonstrating that fair access, international reach and academic excellence are mutually supporting objectives.

  • Warden Ken MacdonaldQC answers questions at the Bridge Group conference

    Warden Ken MacdonaldQC answers questions at the Bridge Group conference

  • Warden Ken MacdonaldQC answers questions at the Bridge Group conference

So said Warden, Ken Macdonald QC, a keynote speaker at the Bridge Group conference, Bridging the Gaps: Fair Access to University and the Professions.

Speaking alongside Professor Koen Lamberts, Vice-Chancellor of York University and Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow, President of Universities UK, the Warden gave a keynote address about Wadham’s extensive access work with schools and teachers in its regions. With conference representatives from the universities, corporations, third sector and Government, the importance of cross sector collaboration was a clear focus in terms of facilitating social mobility.

As part of the College’s vision for widening access to Oxford, Wadham has established a partnership with the Bridge Group, a social mobility think tank.

Speaking on behalf of Wadham, Ken Macdonald QC said: “In my role as Warden, I want Wadham to be the living proof that fairness in education is not about lowering standards; it is about accessing the best talent, wherever it is to found. And we are working hard to ensure that we live these principles, and translate a familiar narrative into action that will impact in ways that we can evidence, and share.”

Explaining Wadham’s strategy for achieving this he added:  “Firstly, we are working hard to deliver our own access work to greatest effect, ensuring it is evaluated robustly so that we can evidence impact, and add to the growing understanding about how the attainment and aspirations of disadvantaged young people can be most effectively supported. However, we also recognise the scope of our own work and that, while the College’s work in this space is critical, we can only achieve a certain degree of impact in our attempt to combat deep-rooted inequalities in the educational system.”

The Bridge Group is an independent policy association researching and promoting access to higher education. Introducing Wadham’s ambitious Access to Excellence strategy, it is the College’s mission to drive the very best scholarship through to graduate level and beyond by searching for talent regardless of background. Working with the Bridge Group, Wadham is determined to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of its access and outreach work, and to understand how the College can most effectively contribute to widening access to Oxford in the years to come.

The Bridge Group report on Graduate Outcomes and Social Mobility stated: “We need collective responsibility and collaborative action. Universities have a critical role, but they do not hold the panacea to inequality in progression. In fact, the boundaries of universities’ roles in combatting social immobility are rarely voiced; entrenched inequalities in the school and college sector are inherited and, unless employers make greater progress, gains in higher education policy risk being annulled after graduation.”

Lord Macdonald added: “Through a complementary second strand to our work, the College is facilitating debate on effective approaches and policy solutions, we hope within the University of Oxford, and more widely across the schools, university, charity and employer sectors. We will deliver this second ambition through hosting prominent events to provide an innovative forum through which new research can be shared and applied. At Wadham, we do not pretend to have all of the answers to solve the complex issues associated with social immobility and unequal access to educational opportunity, but we will play an active role in the community that is committed to finding them.”

Wadham College will be inviting alumni to a series of events introducing its Access to Excellence programme later in the year, with the first event scheduled for 2 July 2016.