Oxford and Cambridge are aiming to increase the number of places awarded to applicants from black African and Caribbean backgrounds.
Target Oxbridge, a pro bono programme created and run by diversity recruitment specialist Rare, has received increased funding from both universities to help high-achieving pupils apply to the universities.
In 2017 Target Oxbridge offered 45 fully funded places on its programme, and in 2018 this is set to increase to 160 places following unprecedented demand and a boost in funding from the two universities.
The development programme lasts one year and includes university, college and course advice; personal statement and UCAS support; interview practice and test preparation; academic discussions, seminars and Oxbridge-style tutorials; visits to the universities; and one-on-one mentoring sessions by past and present Oxbridge students.
The Easter and summer residential courses also play a key role by providing students with a taste of life in Oxford, both in the city and at the University.
The funding boost follows public criticism of Oxford and Cambridge for the low number of offers made to working-class and black candidates over recent years. In 2016 Oxford offered places to 16% of applicants who defined their ethnicity as black, while at Cambridge the rate was 18%.
At both institutions the percentage of white applicants who received offers was around 10% higher. Such statistics have pushed both universities to reconsider its initiatives to broaden access, for example through contributing more funding to programmes such as Target Oxbridge.
Fis Noibi, a Target Oxbridge alumna studying French and Arabic at Somerville College, said: “Target Oxbridge provided me with an invaluable experience when it came to preparing not only for admissions into Oxford, but also life once there.
“With this expansion, I can honestly see the face of Oxford changing for the better, to become a much more inclusive, open and diverse space. I’m sure that this will be a real game-changer in the lives of many brilliant and more than capable students who otherwise may not have applied!”
Dr Samina Khan, Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach at Oxford University, said: “Oxford’s partnership with Target Oxbridge has proven to be highly effective in demystifying life at Oxford and encouraging talented British applicants from African and Caribbean heritage to apply.
“It’s fantastic to witness this level of interest. I am keen to see what more we can do to reach talented students from black and other ethnic minority backgrounds, and to get even more students from these communities applying to Oxford.”
Naomi Kellman, Senior Manager for Schools and Universities at Rare and founder of the programme, said: “I am beyond delighted to see Target Oxbridge grow to such a significant size. When we started the programme we had just six students, and so to be able to offer help to 160 students this year is a wonderful opportunity. I look forward to even better results in 2019!”
Since its launch in 2012, Target Oxbridge has helped 46 applicants to secure places at Oxford and Cambridge. This year has seen its highest success rate so far, with 35 of the 86 students currently enrolled receiving offers from Oxford and Cambridge—a success rate of around 41% and more than double the average for all students. It is hoped that the increase in funding will support initiatives to continue to broaden outreach and access.