The University’s commitment to widening access and participation involves a huge amount of collaboration across Oxford, and beyond.
One of the most striking things about access to higher education is the range of partners that make it work. At Wadham, we work with University departments and colleges, schools, charities and corporate partners to give pupils from primary school through to sixth form the tools they need to make informed decisions about their futures.
The new Building Bridges programme, designed to support science teaching between primary and early secondary school, is one example of internal collaboration – in this case between the Department of Chemistry; Gardens, Libraries and Museums; and Balliol and Hertford colleges. Outreach staff from the departments and colleges bring different experience and expertise to the design of the programme – and as a result we’ve devised something that none of us could have created individually.
Wadham works closely with the schools and colleges in our 11 local authority link areas, developing strong relationships with pupils and teachers in the East of England and East London. The Wadham Project works closely with project hub teachers in six Bedfordshire schools. We also collaborate with global businesses on programmes that expand young people’s knowledge and understanding of specific careers. Our corporate partners, Linklaters and Barclays, fund free two-year programmes, ‘Think Like a Lawyer’ and ‘Access to Banking’, which are for Year 12–13 students attending non-selective state schools who have an interest in studying law or pursuing a career in banking. ‘Think Like a Lawyer’ participants also gain experience of learning at Oxford, attending a Law Taster Day at the Faculty of Law.
We value greatly our collaboration with The Brilliant Club, who work across the UK to support less advantaged students to reach the most competitive universities and to succeed there; and with Causeway Education, who equip sixth formers to make the best possible choices and university applications. We also work closely with Target Oxbridge, a free programme that helps black African and Caribbean students, and students of mixed race with black African and Caribbean heritage, increase their chances of getting into Oxford or Cambridge. These collaborations highlight how successful access projects must extend outside Oxford. Such projects empower young people to find the course and university that is right for them.
Among our closest champions are members of Wadham’s community. We could not run our residential summer schools for Year 12 pupils without our student ambassadors, many of whom came to Wadham through the University’s outreach programmes. They are the most effective communicators of what it’s like to be at Oxford now. Our tutors and research graduates provide seminars and tutorials that give a taste of the academic environment, and the Access team helps with the university application process. The number of summer school students applying for and receiving offers to study at Wadham and at Oxford increases each year: of the 32 participants in 2022, 11 received offers. The support from our alumni has been invaluable, too, in enabling us to expand our work with schools. Many school visits to the college take place in the Locke Access Centre, the first dedicated Access Centre in Oxford, named after our alumnus, Alasdair Locke. Our extensive Access to Excellence programme, designed to support young people on their journey to Oxford and beyond, is supported by the generosity of our alumni and friends.
Access work is most effective when undertaken in collaboration. When we evaluate and review our programmes, we acknowledge that the variety and strength of our partnerships enhances our work and ultimately provides students from less advantaged and underrepresented backgrounds with a richer experience to help equip and empower them on their academic journey.