Oxford launches foundation year for students with BBB grades

University follows Cambridge in offering gifted state school students chance to take fully funded introductory year

May 4, 2022
Oxford University
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The University of Oxford is set to offer students from disadvantaged backgrounds the chance to study a foundation year at the elite institution, with some places available for those who have achieved three Bs at A level.

An anonymous donor is covering the cost of providing 50 fully funded places as the institution seeks to diversify its undergraduate intake.

The “Astrophoria” foundation year follows a similar scheme set up at the University of Cambridge, whose first cohort of 50 students will start their own foundation year in September.

Like at Cambridge, the Oxford scheme targets UK state school pupils who have significant academic potential, but who have experienced severe personal disadvantage or disruption to their education that has damaged their ability to apply for an undergraduate place.

Both institutions have faced criticism for not doing enough to improve access for disadvantaged students, and for taking a disproportionate number of students from private schools.

Oxford’s announcement of its scheme coincided with the publication of its annual admissions report which showed that 21 per cent of the university’s intake in 2021 came from disadvantaged, under-represented backgrounds, a 13 per cent rise compared with four years ago but still short of the target of 25 per cent.

Students entering the foundation year will study one of four courses; humanities; chemistry, engineering and materials science; philosophy, politics and economics; or law. Ten colleges are taking part, including Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, which first piloted a version of the scheme in 2016.

The courses aim to develop the students’ academic skills, self-belief and confidence, and all tuition fees, accommodation costs and other living expenses will be covered.

Students who have achieved the required attainment level by the end of the year will be able to progress on to a full undergraduate degree without needing to reapply. Otherwise, they will achieve a Certificate in Higher Education (CertHE) and the university says that it will support them to apply elsewhere.

The first cohort must apply between 6 September 2022 and 25 January 2023 via Ucas, to start in October 2023. Oxford’s admissions figures show that the majority of students admitted in 2021 (68 per cent) achieved three A*s at A level but entry grades for the foundational year will be lower, ranging from BBB to AAB, depending on the course. 

Louise Richardson, Oxford’s vice-chancellor, said that the scheme would have a “transformative impact on the lives of the smartest students who have experienced grave disadvantage” and will help “accelerate” the progress made in broadening the socio-economic backgrounds of undergraduate students.

The university’s admissions report also shows that 68 per cent of new students starting in 2021 came from state schools and the proportion of UK undergraduates who identify as black and minority ethnic has risen from 18 per cent to 25 per cent over the past five years.


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Reader's comments (3)

The Scottish system used to pride itself in allowing "back stair ways" for enthusiastic students who did not fit the standard admission criteria but were keen to make up ground. This sounds like a good idea.
This is a momentous initiative and should be followed by all Russell Group institutions. We are currently wasting talent by not identifying it early enough. As well as making the adjustments described, more use should be made of psychometric tests to identify those young people likely to benefit from an undergraduate education at an elite institution. Greater diversity at this level will have a substantial, longterm, beneficial impact on the individuals, the institutions and society.
Great news. There's no point in merely admitting students who have, through no fault of their own, underachieved as they are not adequately prepared and you're just setting them up to fail. Giving them a chance to get up to speed is absolutely the way to go.