Oxford courts students from FE

19th May 2000 at 01:00
OXFORD University is to forge links with further education colleges to attract more student applicants from the sector.

A consortium of seven Oxford colleges has been formed to swell the numbers of undergraduates from state education. They will focus on attracting students from FE, who make up the smallest proportion of entrants to the univeristy.

The group, led by Mansfield College, includes Worcester, New, Harris Manchester, Hertford, Keble and St Hugh's colleges. Together they account for around a fifth of all applications to Oxford.

The consortium is to appoint a recruitment officer who will cultivate links and visit FE colleges. It will also introduce induction courses to help all new undergraduates to settle in.

A spokesman for Mansfield College said the university's Brideshead image convinces some in FE that Oxford is not for them. He said the consortium had been formed to overcome such hurdles.

"There are lots of people out there getting three As at A-level, and we'd certainly like them to be thinking of Oxford.

"We'll be going out and creating those links and partnerships that would generally be associatedwith the independent sector and grammar schools.

"We're saying: 'look, Oxford is not necessarily what you think it is'. It has academic excellence, but it's not about people punting down the river quoting poetry at each other.

"It's a lot more than that - there's a true diversity at Oxford, as there is at other universities."

David Gibson, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, welcomed the move.

"A number of universities have been doing this for some time, partly in answer to the Government's widening participation and social exclusion agenda.

"So we would want to supportanything that improves the link between students between FE and HE.

"Our figures demonstrate that approximately 40 per cent of students going to do degree courses come through FE colleges. So we see this as part of the overall picture.

"If universities want to widen participation, then working through FE is most likely to be successful."

Oxford University has had 459 applicants from further education students for a place next year, out of 9,340 in total. Of the FE hopefuls, just over 30 per cent have been successful.

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