Siobhan Resized

Supporting Oxbridge Applicants

In the UK we’re spoilt for choice with fantastic higher education establishments. However, research still shows that there is an advantage in both access to professional jobs and earning potential for those with a degree from Oxford of Cambridge - two indicators central to social mobility. Prospective Access Project (TAP) candidates have been busy working on their applications since before the summer holiday in time for the deadline last weekend. 

Our students are bright, determined, and ambitious. Many have the academic potential and work ethic to thrive in the academically rigorous environment of Oxbridge. However, this alone hasn’t meant progression to Oxford or Cambridge for many of our past applicants. So why is achieving an Oxbridge placement particularly elusive for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and what is TAP doing to support students to achieve this?

Firstly, it’s fair to say achieving an offer from Oxford or Cambridge is a challenge for anyone, regardless of their background. Secondly, every TAP student is individual and as such the barriers to achieving this goal impact each person to differing extents. What is a challenge for one young person may feel ‘light work’ for another. With that in mind the key challenges we’ve identified at TAP are; course choice; admissions tests; interviews and attainment. To take course choice as an example, for this year’s applicants our 3 most popular subjects applied to at Oxford or Cambridge are Engineering, Law and Maths, 3 of the most oversubscribed courses at Oxbridge.   

To support students to achieve Oxbridge success, we’ve designed a programme of support we call our Oxbridge Society. Students apply to join the society in December of Year 12 and activities run from January to the October application deadline. This extra-curricular programme is offered to our highest achieving students across London and the Midlands. Events include a parent/carer and student information evening to present the benefits of applying to Oxbridge and the general admissions process. This is followed by a course and college selection day, where students meet with a representative from a range of courses to find out more about course options and consider a course they may not have done so before. There are then trips to St Catharine’s College and Newnham College Cambridge, where students spend the day in small subject specific groups with undergraduates from their prospective course. There’s then an admissions test preparation day, personal statement e-support by subject specific volunteers, an Interview Skills Workshop and individual mock interviews. 

This support is made possible by a continued partnership in London with not-for-profit social enterprise Oxfizz and St Catharine’s College, Cambridge. This is in addition to new partnerships with Newnham, Girton, Peterhouse and Murray Edwards College in Cambridge, Keble College and Magdalen College in Oxford, to support the society in the Midlands. 

Alongside this dedicated provision for students applying to Oxbridge, students on The Access Project also work with a volunteer tutor to support them with their studies in a particular subject. The Access Project are currently recruiting more volunteer tutors across London and the Midlands for this academic year and if you think you could help, please sign up here.

Siobhan Randall, University Access Manager