Diversity drives standards up, not down

The Guardian is reporting that while many Oxford colleges struggle to admit a diverse range of undergraduates, Wadham College stands out as showing what can be done when a college’s leadership and governing body are committed to the cause of widening access.

While some colleges such as Mansfield, Somerville, St John’s and Lady Margaret Hall have also developed innovative access schemes, Wadham’s commitment can be measured in the 68% of state school students it admits, compared with its neighbour, Trinity, admitting just 41%.

Wadham incorporates its widening participation work into its admissions process – but led by specialist staff, who work with schools in its target areas such as Luton and the east London boroughs including Tower Hamlets and Newham.

“The challenge for us at the moment is encouraging those students who are capable of getting three As at A-level to come through our doors in the first place,” said Hugh Munro, a former teacher who is now Wadham’s access and outreach coordinator.

“They might be from a part of the country like the north-east or from south Wales or Devon or Cornwall, so the idea of going to Oxford just isn’t on their radar. Or because they think Oxford just isn’t for the likes of them, even if they are capable of getting in and flourishing.”

If the targeted students fail to reach their expected A-levels, and would otherwise fail to be admitted, the college has careful discussions about whether to go ahead and admit them anyway.

Caroline Mawson, Wadham’s senior tutor said “We looked last year at the performance on the course of the students we had admitted after dropping a grade, and they were sitting absolutely bang in the middle of how our students perform as a cohort – there is no sign that they are underperforming compared to other students.”

Read more Diversity drives standards up, not down

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