Improving Oxford diversity

20th October 2017

News, Student news, Alumni news

Some 22% of Wadham’s undergraduate students on-course in 2016-17 identified themselves as BME and 69% of UK-educated undergraduate students in the same year were from state schools.

In response to accusations about ‘social apartheid’ at the University of Oxford from former education minister David Lammy, Wadham College Warden, Ken Macdonald QC, highlighted the important widening participation work that Wadham is doing, adding that 12% of UK-educated undergraduate students at Wadham have an overall ‘widening-participation flag’.

“It is important to all of us that Wadham is at the forefront of efforts to increase diversity at Oxford- and we are succeeding. With the support of our alumni, Fellows and students, our Access to Excellence programme is bringing brilliant young people from all communities and backgrounds to live and study here- and their achievements mock the claim that broadening access to our elite institutions means lowering standards of entry. We believe that the contrary is true: the wider and deeper the trawl, the richer the prize,” said Lord Macdonald of River Glaven Kt QC.

In addition to Wadham’s Fellow for Access, Peter Thonemann, Wadham has two full time staff devoted to access and outreach work who carry out a broad range of activities including school visits, summer schools and a sustained programme working with pre-16 school students.

Dr Thonemann commented: “Over the past few years, our access and outreach programmes, developed and delivered thanks to the generous support of Wadham’s alumni community, have been targeted at some of the most deprived students in the country, many of them from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic backgrounds. Our annual summer schools in Classics, Politics and Engineering, intended to provide rigorous high level training for year 12 students from social and ethnic groups that have traditionally been drastically underrepresented at Oxford, have been spectacularly successful in raising such students' aspirations and attainment; a majority of participants in these summer schools are typically from BME backgrounds. This year, Wadham for the first time hosted a three day residential for year 12 pupils on the Target Oxbridge programme, which aims specifically to increase the chances of black African and Caribbean students of getting into Oxford and Cambridge. Wadham is the living proof that fair access to higher education is not a matter of lowering standards: largely thanks to the exceptionally diverse social and ethnic mix of our undergraduate body, we continue to be one of the academically strongest of all the Oxford colleges.”

Wadham alumni have been extremely supportive of the College’s Access to Excellence programme, providing funding to help support young people from the moment they consider university, through their undergraduate and graduate studies, and into their careers. Working closely with the social mobility think tank, The Bridge Group, Wadham is measuring the impact of Access to Excellence activities and an initial Impact Report was published in January 2017. Wadham’s sustained scheme for pre-16 school children in Luton was recently highlighted in a report from the Office of Fair Access.