Oxford University to launch a trial where class background is included in applications.
During autumn next year, as part of a pilot in the science and medicine faculties, tutors will examine information about a student’s socio-economic background, such as whether they received free school meals, in addition to their academic credentials.
In a bid to increase its intake of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, the university has long encouraged dons to make use of “contextual data” during the admissions process for undergraduates.
As part of the trial, and the university’s push to boost gender equality and ensure that students from ethnic minorities do not face discrimination, Oxford will anonymise elements of applications by removing names and gender pronouns.
Vice Chancellor, Louise Richardson, stated that the university was concerned at a perceived slow rate of progress and it’s recent reforms were aimed at increasing the number of successful applications by students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Louise commented, “From first glance at this data it is immediately apparent that Oxford University reflects the deep inequalities in our society along socio-economic, regional and ethnic lines. It must also be apparent, even to the most cynical observer, that we are making progress. The numbers are low, the pace is slow, but the trajectory is clear. The number of students admitted to Oxford from deprived backgrounds is steadily increasing.”
Further reforms include a foundation year for talented students lacking the required entry grades, “The entire university community, colleges and halls, departments and divisions, have united behind a commitment to effect a sea change in our admissions practices,” Richardson said.
A representative for the University confirmed that the proportion of BAME students made up more than 18% of its UK admissions in 2018, compared with 13% in 2014. Among black students the proportion rose from 1% in 2014 to 2.6% last year, more than doubling the number admitted from 27 to 65.
The university also noted that the number of applicants of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origins had risen substantially, over the same period, with admissions rising from 21 to 41 last year.
Government plans to support prospective University Students
Under plans to be outlined by the Government, students who fail to achieve their predicted A-level grades will have their university places held open for them while they appeal.
With students having received grades that are largely based on statistical modelling, as well as their schools historic grades, this raises the prospect of students losing out on university places if they are given incorrect grades. However students may still lose out on their first choice institution even if they are later awarded the correct mark on appeal if their place has been reallocated by the time they get the result of their challenge.
In a letter to vice-chancellors, Michelle Donelan the Minister of State for Universities, said universities should set aside space on undergraduate courses for teenagers who are appealing against their grades and have missed their offers. “We expect the vast majority of grades to be accurate, but it is essential that we have this safety net for young people who may otherwise be held back from moving on to their chosen route.” She further commented, “Where you are aware that a student’s grade may change as the result of an appeal, I would encourage you, where possible, to hold their place until they receive the result of that appeal.”
It is the first time that the Government has intervened in the row over grading this summer and, in an attempt to prevent institutions from aggressively poaching students from their rivals, the Government has also imposed student “number controls” on universities this year. Universities have predicted that due to the coronavirus overseas students, who pay higher tuition fees, may stay away this year leaving a financial black hole and a number of empty spaces.
Ms Donelan told vice-chancellors that any students who are given places following a successful appeal will not count towards their chosen institution’s place limit. This means universities will be able to fill their allotted places with students who have met their offers and then take on more who have been marked up after appeal.