UNIQ at the University of Oxford
Following five years of support from the Helsington Foundation, the UNIQ summer schools programme was established in 2010 in order to widen access to the University of Oxford for state school students. Five hundred students were accepted onto the 2010 programme, and since then the programme has increased in size with each consecutive year, leading to 1001 students attending the schools in 2014.
The summer school aims to target highly academic students who have experienced some educational or socio-economic disadvantage, or who belong to a group which is under-represented at Oxford. 98% of 2014 UNIQ participants fell into at least one recognised category of social deprivation.
The UNIQ summer schools are only open to students studying in their first year of further education. Participation of the summer school takes place during one of six weeks in July and August. Students apply for one of thirty five specific subjects, and the week-long summer school aims to give them a realistic view of an undergraduate timetable and to inform students of the opportunities Oxford has to offer, together with advice on applying to the university.
UNIQ is supported by subject tutors, Oxford museums, libraries, departments and colleges, and this has proved absolutely crucial to the successful development and delivery of the UNIQ summer schools. Student mentors from the University accompany participants, providing subject specific advice and guidance as well as taking supervisory responsibility for students during their time in Oxford.
“There were so many great moments. One of the overall highlights was how friendly and approachable the mentors were.”
In total 3757 students (20% of total UNIQ applications) have taken part in the summer schools across five years. The University was delighted recently to give conditional offers to 237 UNIQ 2013 participants into a range of undergraduate degree programmes. With 665 UNIQ students now studying in Oxford, every college has at least one UNIQ alumnus.
The Widening Access team at Oxford adopts a holistic approach with the students and facilitates this with online pre-UNIQ forums and several post-summer school events. In 2014 the UNIQ forums gathered close to 9000 posts from students looking to talk with each other about not only UNIQ related topics, but also typical teenager conversations and debates. In November and December each year the University holds a variety of evening events to cater for UNIQ students that are either attending the Oxford interviews or have just started studying at the University, these give the students an opportunity to not only catch up with each other but to also gain further advice if needed.
“I'm not usually one for hyperbole, but the summer school was one of the best weeks of my life. It was a massive confidence boost, not just academically but in a general way too; after a day or two I was comfortable speaking to people I didn't know, I was happy to talk maths in front of a bit of a crowd and after arriving in Oxford on my own I had no qualms about travelling independently. I had an amazing time on UNIQ and I didn't want to leave!”