Oxbridge to address inequalities in postgraduate education

It is foolish enough to enrol underqualified students into first degrees.  Trying to get them into graduate degrees is an even bigger folly.  Postgradute degrees are very demanding.  Trying to get students who were mediocre performers elsewhere into such degree programs is really Quixotic

Cambridge and Oxford have announced a collaborative programme to widen participation across the postgraduate higher education sector.

The project aims to increase admission rates for students from underrepresented ethnic minority backgrounds, specifically in the area of postgraduate research and PhDs and DPhils.

The programme is funded by a grant of £800,00 from the Office for Students (OfS) and Research England (RE), which will be shared between Cambridge and Oxford.

The proportion of white students who continue into postgraduate education is currently higher than the proportion of students from minority ethnic groups, with the disparity widening at the doctoral level. Disparities are most significant for Black British, British Pakistani and British Bangladeshi students.

These trends mean that the academic sector continues to be dominated by white professors.

The project will see Oxford and Cambridge “develop and test a range of new admissions practices and systems designed to transform selection processes for postgraduate research.”

Selection model prototypes will be piloted, building on “world-leading inclusive recruitment practices” which will be tested in 16 departments across the two universities.

Professor Graham Virgo, Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Cambridge, said:

“We are really pleased to be partnering with the University of Oxford, and delighted that this OfS/RE funding competition has brought about the opportunity to share data and current practice so openly. We feel this is indicative of a wider desire across the sector to collaborate to bring about transformational change in representation in postgraduate study.”

By 2025, The programme aims to decrease the ‘offer gap’ by half, and eliminate it completely by 2035. Four new posts will be created across the two universities.

Dr Katherine Powlesland, Postgraduate Widening Participation Manager at the University of Cambridge, said:

“We want to find ways to make admissions systems flex better – thinking imaginatively about pre-requisites, really interrogating the inclusivity of our systems, asking the right questions so we can spot and support the best talent – and also to think radically about innovative inclusive recruitment.”

She continued: “From the postgraduate communities of Britain’s leading research universities come the experts of tomorrow: the decision-makers and advisors on climate change, on educational policy, on social justice. We need these researchers to represent the widest range of lived experience possible, so that, ultimately, all voices can be heard and no perspective goes unseen.”

Cambridge also made a second successful bid and will also collaborate with University College London and City University to offer paid summer research internships to students from underrepresented ethnic groups.

Dr Powlesland added: “We also know there is a lot we could do further upstream to support ethnic minority students to make successful applications for postgraduate research study. We are delighted that, with the support of the Office for Students and Research England, we are also able to partner with UCL and City on a really exciting project to deliver undergraduate summer research internships.

“Cambridge will be offering at least 72 paid internships over three years to Black British, British Bangladeshi, and British Pakistani undergraduates as part of the collaboration. We are excited to be pushing for real change in minority ethnic representation in academic research.”


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