Jesus College is proud of its Access work reaching out to work with schools with little or no Oxbridge experience and encouraging applications from those with the potential regardless of background. We were one of the first colleges to recruit a School Liaison Officer and then went on to appoint our first Access Fellow (Dr Beth Mortimer) in summer 2014. Dr Matthew Williams joined us as our second Access Fellow in summer 2016. In his first year in the role, he facilitated 80 access events in College involving 1,826 pupils (up from 50 events in 2015/16). In addition he and others made 57 visits to schools meeting 2,642 pupils (up from 46 events in 2015/16). These figures do not include Open Day visitors (we hosted 3 such days in 2016/17). Around 45% of pupils involved in our activities came from high deprivation neighbourhoods and 42% from low Higher Education participation neighbourhoods. The overall proportion of students taking part in Jesus activities who were classified as disadvantaged in at least one indicator was 63%.
In 2016/17 22% of Jesus College undergraduates who disclosed their ethnicity described themselves as non-white; the figure for the whole student body here was 28%. 20% of our undergraduates identified as BME (British black or minority ethnic), with that figure rising to 31% of taught postgraduates and 31% of research students. 11% of all our students officially disclosed a disability (11.3% of undergraduates).
15% of undergraduate places offered in 2016 at Jesus went to students who had a Widening Participation flag, whilst 43% of places went to applicants who had at least one OFFA (Office for Fair Access) flag (https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/applying-to-oxford/decisions/contextual-data?wssl=1). 58% of our UK offers went to state-school applicants.
We work with schools across the UK but have special responsibility under the University’s regionalisation scheme for 13 LEA regions in South Wales and the south London boroughs of Lambeth and Wandsworth. Of the events listed above in 2016/17, 28 were in Lambeth involving 505 pupils or staff (CPD). With a further 80 students from Wandsworth at five events. Lambeth was deliberately targeted as being more in need of interventions.
Our flagship activity this year was our inaugural Access Summer School. This was a pilot scheme, pursued in collaboration with the Welsh Government’s SEREN network. 22 year-twelve students were carefully selected (on the basis of academic potential and socioeconomic disadvantage) from over fifty applications from across Wales. The event was interdisciplinary with 8 lectures, 5 seminars, and tutorials. Topics covered included machine learning, life on exoplanets, science fiction, and the future of trade.
Our aim was to broaden the participants’ appreciation of the wide range of courses on offer, as well as instilling a sense of how different disciplines overlap in tackling similar problems. It is common for students from relative socioeconomic disadvantage to choose courses with an obvious vocational pay-off (such as Law and Medicine). We wanted to ensure students were better informed when making subject choices and to promote an image of university study as intrinsically enjoyable, and not just a means to an end. Feedback on the pilot has been very positive and we are planning to triple the size of the summer school in 2018.
Rhi Griffiths, Senior Project Manager for the Seren Network described the inaugural summer school as “an incredible life changing experience… many of the students arrived quite nervous and unsure of what lay ahead, but as the week progressed, you could quickly see their confidence grow as they engaged in the fantastic sessions which were coordinated by Dr Matt Williams and his colleagues. I heard many of the students mentioned that they had already applied to study at Jesus next year. I appreciate that not all of the students had the opportunity to attend the summer school, but many had, and also their passion and knowledge has been passed on to their fellow students both within their hubs and also across the various hubs at events similar to yesterday. The experience was an invaluable one for the Seren students and also for us at Welsh Government to understand and appreciate the fantastic opportunities afforded to the brightest students in Wales. There is great political support for the Seren Network by the Ministers responsible and I keep them fully engaged with all the developments and opportunities, of which the relationship and key developments on the summer school is one. We understand that you hope to extend the size of the summer school next year which would be incredible.”
Jesus College alumni have been very supportive over the years helping to fund our Access work and bursary support for students from lower household income backgrounds. This year’s Summer School was partially funded by alumni (as well as partial support from the Welsh Assembly) and our alumni also help to fund the post of Access Fellow. Donations to the annual Development Fund have also allowed us to support the costs of undertaking an internship so that students can access experience and networks, amongst other activities. We thank our supporters for this help and look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure that the very brightest have a chance to study here regardless of background.