Nurturing intellectual curiosity is not limited to the work of our prominent academics, but is the motivation behind our dynamic access and outreach programme. During 2019 the College worked with a total of 9,145 prospective applicants from schools currently underrepresented at Oxford. Subsequently, each year we see a greater number of students making applications to Oxford or other Russel Group universities.

An unprecedented gift of £1m from Jesus alumnus, Oliver Thomas (2000, Economics and Management) and his family will go towards supporting Welsh access at the College. This is the single largest benefaction towards this scheme and will ensure that we can continue and enhance support to our access areas in Wales, encouraging young people to broaden their interests and raise their aspirations.

Mr Thomas’ gift goes specifically to the College’s flagship Welsh Access Summer School. The annual summer school is a joint collaboration with the Welsh government’s ‘Seren’ programme and invites students from the country to experience life at Oxford. In three years nearly 200 young people from Welsh state schools have been welcomed to Oxford to take part in an interactive week of lectures and seminars. Not only has the summer school encouraged more applications from Welsh state schools to Oxford, it has improved the offer rate for these schools that are so underrepresented in Oxford. 

As we approach the landmark anniversary of 450 years since foundation in 2021, we have now secured two elements which are at the heart of the College’s ethos: promoting Celtic scholarship and supporting access. Principal, Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt commented, ‘Jesus College’s links with Wales go back its foundation in 1571. It is wonderful to see these reaffirmed in the 21st century. David Willis brings formidable linguistic scholarship to the Jesus Chair of Celtic to better understand how Welsh developed and continues to evolve. At the same time our access programme reaches out to students in Wales hoping to attract future generations to study here.’