On 7 October, we celebrated the official opening of our new 'Back Quad' buildings.
We were delighted to welcome Lord Patten of Barnes, Chancellor of the University of Oxford, to our new buildings. Lord Patten joined Foundation Fellow Alasdair Locke (History and Economics, 1971) and more donors and friends of Wadham College to open the first dedicated access facility in Oxford, the Locke Access Centre, along with the Dr Lee Shau Kee Building and the William Doo Undergraduate Centre.
Our Warden, Robert Hannigan, and Honorary Fellow and Warden from 2012 - 2021, Ken Macdonald, thanked all of those who worked with us to make the new building possible. This included the architects, AL_A, who achieved the vision for the buildings with great aplomb, our hardworking project team of Wadham colleagues and hundreds of generous donors, without whom the project would not have been possible.
Founder of AL_A, Amanda Levete and CEO of London School of Architecture, Neal Shasore (History of Art, 2007) contributed to the opening celebrations with their inspirational reflections on the role architecture can play in opening up institutions like Oxford and Wadham to students from all backgrounds.
The opening of the Back Quad buildings was a chance to thank the hundreds of donors who contributed more than £17m towards these new buildings, and to thank benefactors to Wadham’s Access to Excellence programme over the past decade. The programme is designed to support young people from the moment they consider university through their time at Oxford and into their careers.
The opening of the Locke Access Centre will be followed by official openings of the William Doo Undergraduate Centre next month and the Dr Lee Shau Kee Building in 2023.
Find out more about the support from the University of Oxford for our Access to Excellence work.
Back Quad buildings, Wadham College
Guests and friends of the College
Access to Excellence Summit
The opening was preceded by an Access to Excellence Summit, which reflected on the impact of this pioneering programme and the direction for the future.
The Access to Excellence Summit is available to watch here. With school partners and policy experts, we explored and celebrated the impact of the College’s Access to Excellence programme and took the opportunity to look towards its future development. Access to Excellence supports young people from when they first consider university, through their time at Oxford, and on into their careers. This programme has shown that reaching out to the widest number of students improves academic performance at Oxford, and that the power of effective outreach can change lives.
The Warden, Robert Hannigan, welcomed all guests, donors, professional partners and colleagues to this day of thanksgiving and commitment to securing Wadham's mission for the coming decades. He shared some highlights of what has been achieved with the support of the College community and its commitment to fair access and academic excellence.
Wadham’s Access to Excellence programme was launched in 2016 when the College set out an ambitious plan to secure £30 million towards the five-step 'life cycle', recognising that every step of the journey into higher education and beyond is interconnected. The vision for the campaign was to make admissions to Wadham fairer and reach new heights of academic excellence, demonstrating that inclusivity genuinely raises performance. As well as delivering the programme, the College has been committed to reflecting on its work in the field, hosting three social mobility summits with leaders from across education, government, business and academia to inform practice.
In the seven academic years up to 2021/22, we have engaged 37,782 pupils across 991 outreach events, working and average of 224 different schools per year. During the academic year 2021/22, the Access team ran over 138 events with over 4,399 young people. These sustained programmes of outreach engage pupils from Year 10 through to Year 11 and continue to provide support throughout their A-Level studies. We measure the impact of all our programmes and our Access programme has resulted in higher numbers of successful applications to the College for those from under-represented groups. This is impacting positively on our overall student diversity by social background. Wadham has one of the most diverse student bodies at the University.
The embodiment of Wadham's bold vision for fairer access to Oxford is the beautiful buildings we have in the Back Quad. We are grateful to everyone present at the Summit for investing their time and ideas and for their generous financial support in enabling Wadham to deliver our ambitious plans.
Nik Miller (Chief Executive, The Bridge Group) described the strengths of Wadham's Access to Excellence programme. These include the connection to the realities of school life while also looking outwards to policy and evidence of what works best.
Now in her final year of her Law degree, Karishma Khola talked about her time as a pupil in Wadham's link area. Her school visit here inspired her to apply and she has seen the programme make a real difference to others from Year 10 onwards.
Dr Louise Ashley (Senior Lecturer at Queen Mary University, London) described the challenges facing the Access to Excellence programme where there is social inequality. There is much more to be done but evidence shows that it is making a difference in opening up access to university and in turn, creating a more diverse workforce.
Dr Hugh Munro (Tutor for Access at Wadham) stressed the importance of focusing on sustained contact with students. Another strength of the Access to Excellence programme is the collaborative partnerships with schools and firms. Both will be crucial in the future.
Faheem Khan (Deputy Headteacher at Woodbridge School in Wadham’s link area, and Founding Director of Future Leaders UK) spoke of the power of effective outreach, which he has seen change lives. Engagement with parents and carers is also crucial in creating the possibility for young people at an early stage.
Margaret Leach (Diversity and Global Recruitment Advisor at Linklaters) spoke about the importance of widening access as part of recruitment processes. Recruiters have to play their part in ensuring that access continues in a fair and equitable way. About four years ago, Linklaters began contextualising recruitment. By looking at the background and circumstances of applicants, they are more able to give candidates the opportunity to show their potential.
The Back Quad project is a practical enabler of what we are doing in this area. Its completion is a powerful statement of Wadham's commitment to Access to Excellence programme. Robert Hannigan thanked everyone, including our generous donors, who has made it possible for us to take forward the programme and provide the new buildings that the Chancellor opened on 7 October.
Warden, Robert Hannigan introduces the Access to Excellence summit panel