The innovative online programme, is for Year 12 school pupils and aims to help improve representation of British Bangladeshi and Pakistani students at top universities, by supporting them in making competitive applications.
It has been created and developed by the Jesus College Access & Outreach team – Access Fellow Dr Matthew Williams and Access and Outreach Officer Shelley Knowles – in collaboration with all other Oxford Colleges and several Departments at the University of Oxford. The programme has also been championed by influencer Ibz Mo, a graduate student at St Anne’s College, who will be the official spokesperson and face of the new project.
Jesus College, and the University more broadly, is working hard to overcome the barriers that dissuade students from underrepresented groups from applying to Oxford. The College Access & Outreach team runs an extensive range of school visits, outreach programmes and activities for prospective students from non-selective state schools and under-represented groups.
Students from British Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds are still underrepresented at the UK’s top universities, due to a complex mix of factors that, Dr Williams says: “include relative economic disadvantage, and a general perception that they will not be safe or welcome in institutions like Oxford.” The British Bangladeshi and Pakistani Year 12 Access Programme, which runs until December 2021, will include a variety of online information sessions and panel discussions that address these issues, as well as providing application support sessions, Q&As, academic lectures and competitions. Teachers and parents/carers are also able to participate and it is being run through a specially designed, secure web portal.
Today’s launch takes the form of a half-day virtual open day for students, with panel discussions, chaired by Ibz Mo, on life and studying at Oxford, how to go about applying to Oxford and a keynote speech from Dr Samina Khan, Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach at the University of Oxford. This will be followed by monthly drop-in application clinics, and admissions/ academic live events, with question and answer sessions to help participants build confidence and develop their applications.
As well as support for students, the programme will also provide support for teachers. Dr Williams explains, “Later in the year we will be providing bespoke CPD sessions for teachers, and giving them the opportunity to chat with education experts on supporting students from British Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds.”
“Speaking to our own students, something that comes up time and again is how important teachers are in encouraging, or discouraging, applications to universities like Oxford. We want to demystify Oxford amongst these crucial gate-keepers.” He added, “We’re also establishing a prize for ‘teacher champions’ that will be based on submissions of an aspiration plan for supporting students from British Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds.“
Applications opened for the first phase of the programme in mid-January, reaching out to British Bangladeshi and Pakistani students and students of mixed race with Bangladeshi or Pakistani heritage, as well as parents or carers, and state school teachers. Priority was given to state school students coming from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, as judged by standard UCAS criteria, including postcode and school data.
The response so far has been huge. Dr Williams says, “We had planned for about 100 participants in the first instance but we have received 471 applications, 450 of which are from prospective undergraduate students. This is far beyond what we were hoping, and a really positive sign that there is a demand for this kind of support.”
It is hoped that the programme will expand later in the year.