We are delighted to announce that Jesus College has been given responsibility by the University of Oxford for delivering school access programmes across all regions of Wales.
The University of Oxford is committed to making Oxford accessible and attractive to students with high academic potential from all backgrounds. Through its Active Participation Plan (APP), the University aims to improve equality of opportunity at each stage of the student journey, from school through higher education into employment or further study. The University has access targets which are set in collaboration with the Office for Students and funded through the Department of Education.
Jesus College, which has been running a formal outreach and access programme for schools in South Wales since 2015, takes over responsibility for the mid-Wales and North Wales as part of the University’s College Outreach Consortia.
Jesus College is perfectly positioned to be able to support a wider remit in Wales. Dr Matt Williams, the College’s Access Fellow, explains, “We are known as the ‘Welsh college’ as we were founded in 1571 by Elizabeth 1 at the request of a Welsh lawyer and clergyman, Hugh Price. We have always had a strong relationship with the people, schools and communities in south Wales and are committed to encouraging more applications from Welsh school students. This is shown in the fact that 15% of our undergraduates are from Wales.”
“We also have a fantastic cohort of Welsh alumni and their active support for the College and our networks are invaluable to the ongoing success of our access programmes. For example, we recently received a £1m donation to our Welsh Access Fund from alumnus Oliver Thomas and his family which will support (in perpetuity) our flagship Welsh Access Summer School.”
The Welsh Access Fund enables Matt and his Access Team colleague Shelley Knowles to run access events throughout the year, including day visits to Oxford, in-school talks in Welsh secondary schools and residential summer schools for A-level students.
In 2018/19, they facilitated 173 in-bound and out-bound access events, reaching over nine thousand prospective students. Sixty-eight percent of those students came from the most disadvantaged backgrounds and nearly all from non-selective state schools. Eighty-four young people from Wales and South London (the College’s other access region) came to stay at Jesus College for summer schools in August 2019. Most programmes are supported by volunteering undergraduate and graduate student ambassadors.
Matt adds, “We already work closely with the Seren Network, an initiative funded by the Welsh Government to support the most successful students to achieve their full academic potential and access the UK’s most prestigious and selective universities. We run an annual Seren summer school for Welsh students, to give them a flavour of life at the University. In 2019, 91% of participants in the summer school reported feeling quite confident or very confident that they could cope with an Oxford degree compared to just 55% before the event. The Network will be pivotal in helping us to build relationships with schools in our broadened region going forward.”
Jesus College was also honoured recently with a visit from His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, who attended to celebrate the appointment of the College’s new Chair of Celtic and to learn more about its Welsh Access Programmes. The Prince was able to meet sixty school children and their teachers from some of the South Wales schools that Jesus College collaborates with.
There is clear evidence that the University’s APP positively impacts the students it targets. Around 10% of all Oxford applications from Wales in 2019 were accounted for by 2018 summer school participants and 56% of 2018 summer school participants applied to Oxford. Furthermore, there was a 21% success rate for Oxford applicants who had attended the Seren summer school, against 15% for those who had not.
Professor Maggie Snowling, President of St John's College and Head of the University of Oxford’s Admissions Committee, says, “To thrive, the collegiate University must continue to admit the most able people from all backgrounds and diversity is the key to its vitality. Students from Wales are currently under-represented at Oxford and we are keen to admit more’.
She added, “Jesus College’s unwavering commitment to increasing access to Oxford for students from Wales is an outstanding example of what can be achieved through a programme of sustained outreach. The leadership of Matt’s team is valued by all who are engaged in such partnerships which, together, enable the University to reach schools and communities across the country.”
Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Jesus College Access Team’s first priority is to find innovative ways to reach out to the rural Welsh communities that they’ve identified as in greatest need of support. Matt says, “We’re converting the lockdown situation into an advantage by looking at novel ways to engage with rural communities across Wales – to virtually visit them, introduce ourselves and then introduce Oxford through talks, webinars and other online activities. We want them to know that we’re here and that we want to help.”
The annual summer school, scheduled for August, will still take place. Depending on the pandemic situation, this will either be our normal residential school based at Jesus College or as a virtual summer school for the whole of Wales. There’s also an essay competition for Years 8-11 coming up in May. Students from all Welsh state schools will be invited to submit essays in response to questions from the Oxplore.org website, with up to £500 in book tokens to be won for students and their schools.
Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt, Principal of Jesus College, says, “It is a great honour and privilege for the College to take on schools access programmes for an entire nation and we’re excited that we’ll be able to build on the strong foundations we have in South Wales. Both the University of Oxford and Jesus College are committed to inclusivity and diversity and I look forward to welcoming more Welsh students to our community and to Oxford as a result of our expanded remit.”
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For more information and photography, please contact Jude Eades, Jesus College Communications Manager on 07884 584609 or by email to email@example.com