In the last few years, the University has been very proactive in developing strategies and initiatives to increase the number of promising postgraduate students from under-represented and disadvantaged groups at Oxford. A cross-institutional Graduate Access Working Group has been established to improve access and widening participation into graduate study for disadvantaged and under-represented groups. Under the aegis of this Working Group, a substantial number of initiatives, some of which are sector-leading, have been implemented.
You can explore our current access initiatives, including Academic Futures and UNIQ+, on the Graduate Access webpages.
In 2019, we launched our UNIQ+ programme that provides paid research internships for those from disadvantaged backgrounds and from other groups underrepresented at the University of Oxford. The programme offers students the opportunity to experience graduate study at Oxford and receive a range of skills training and information sessions. UNIQ+ 2022 provided 120 students with postgraduate research experience through a fully-paid internship and internships were offered in 36 departments across four academic divisions. Alongside UNIQ+, 12 ten-week UNIQ+ DeepMind research internships in artificial intelligence and machine learning were offered in 2022.
We operate an application fee waiver scheme for students from low-income countries, refugees and for UK applicants from low-income backgrounds. Also, all UNIQ+ eligible applicants, whether or not they have been successful in obtaining an internship, receive an application fee waiver if they decide to apply for graduate study at Oxford.
Our Black Academic Futures Scholarships, launched in 2020, offer UK Black and Mixed Black students financial support to pursue graduate study at Oxford. The scholarship funding is also accompanied by a programme of targeted activities from pre-application to on-course, including bespoke mentoring and support. Thanks to the generous support of funding partners across the University and colleges, the scholarship programme will continue to expand in scope and scale for the 2023-24 academic year, with more dedicated awards available for eligible candidates than ever before. To date, funding for around 50 awards has been offered.
Alongside Black Academic Futures, the Refugee Academic Futures scheme offers financial support to pursue graduate study at Oxford to students who are refugees, or who have lived experience of displacement. From 2023-24 the Care-Experienced Academic Futures pilot scheme is also open to applications from candidates who have experience of being in care. We continue to seek funding partners for Academic Futures awards as we pursue our strategic goal to increase the number of graduate scholarships available at Oxford for under-represented groups.
We have also collated a list of other graduate funding opportunities for disadvantaged and under-represented groups that have been launched by the University and colleges.
Inspired by initial measures taken in some academic departments, we launched a pilot on the selection procedure for graduate applications in 2020 to explore actions aimed at better contextualising our admissions procedures for graduate students while minimising conscious and unconscious bias. The pilot will be continuing for the 2022/23 admissions cycle (for 2023/24 entry) and has further expanded to include more courses and departments. Academic departments taking part in the pilot will use one or more of the following measures or interventions in the selection of applications:
- Taking into consideration applicant socio-economic data collected in the application form (measure taken by all courses)
- Anonymising applications
- Using a standard format for the CV and statement of purpose
- Collecting an applicant contextual statement
- Collecting specific questions from referees
- Taking positive action by inviting to interview Black British applicants who meet the entry requirements
A full list of courses taking part in the pilot and information for applicants is available on our website.
The ‘Close the Gap’ project is an equal partnership between the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge and is one of 13 projects partially funded by the Office for Students and Research England to improve access to doctoral study for UK Black, Asian and minority ethnic students.
Close the Gap aims to develop and test new disciplinary-specific, race-literate, fair selection processes that are designed to bring about meaningful change in doctoral candidate selection, and in particular to address the underrepresentation of Black British, British Bangladeshi and British Pakistani students in postgraduate research in the UK overall, and in all major discipline groups at doctoral level in the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Read more about Close the Gap including an initial pilot working with Rare Recruitment, leaders in diversity graduate recruitment.