Oxford University colleges will provide one-year, pre-degree courses to promising but disadvantaged applicants who might otherwise be overlooked.

By accepting that students from lower-income backgrounds must strive harder to achieve the same grades as their more privileged peers, these “foundation-year” schemes hope to increase socio-economic and ethnic diversity in the notoriously white, upper-class university.

One scheme will offer approximately 200 students from under-represented demographics year-long structured home study and two-week residencies at Oxford before beginning their degree in 2020.

Another will select about 50 “high academic potential” students—including refugees—for in-house coaching and academic tuition starting in 2021.

Worldwide, admissions processes at top-tier universities are facing scrutiny.

Last week, US non-profit the College Board announced it would calculate an ‘adversity score’ accompanying students’ SAT results, factoring in family education, household income, and neighbourhood crime—but not race.

Adversity scores will form part of an “environmental context dashboard” only visible to 150 US colleges.

Though some—like dean Alan Rusbridger of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford—assert such initiatives show progress, British lawmaker David Lammy believes elite colleges still have too much purview.

Does this more holistic approach, as critics claim, oversimplify the inexact science of academic achievement?

Or should all top-tier universities recognise the challenge applicants’ backgrounds can pose?


Credit for this article's header image goes to Getty.