Oxford University launches new access program to help disadvantaged students raise their academic standards

The University of Oxford today launches an innovative new access programme, the ‘Astrophoria Foundation Year’, to help able students from disadvantaged backgrounds raise their academic standards and apply successfully to Oxford.

The programme, part of Oxford’s continuing drive to diversify the undergraduate body and wholly funded by an anonymous donor, gives motivated students the chance to reach their academic potential through a supportive and challenging one-year academic course, aimed at developing their academic skills, self-belief and confidence. For now the scheme is open to all UK state school pupils with significant academic potential, but who have experienced severe personal disadvantage or a disrupted education which has damaged their ability to apply for an Oxford undergraduate place.

The Astrophoria Foundation Year will offer places for up to 50 students each year and is fully funded, covering tuition fees and the cost of accommodation and living expenses for all participating students. The funding is supported by a major gift from a longstanding University donor.

Today’s launch coincides with the release of Oxford University’s Annual Admissions Statistical Report for 2022, demonstrating the University’s continued progress towards greater access for students from backgrounds currently underrepresented at Oxford.

We are delighted to announce the launch of the Astrophoria Foundation Year, which will have a transformative impact on the lives of the smartest students who have experienced grave disadvantage. The programme will enable us to accelerate the progress we have made, as demonstrated in our annual admissions report, in broadening the socio-economic backgrounds of our undergraduate students. I am deeply grateful to the generous donor who shares our belief in the power of education and our commitment to identifying and nurturing talent.”


Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor, Oxford University

Students will study one of four foundation courses; Humanities (Classics, History, English and Theology); Chemistry, Engineering and Materials Science; Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) or Law. Ten Oxford colleges are taking part in the first year of the new initiative: Exeter, Jesus, Keble, Lady Margaret Hall (LMH), Mansfield, Somerville, St Anne’s, St Hugh’s, Trinity, and Wadham. The Astrophoria Foundation Year builds on the model of a pilot foundation year programme pioneered by LMH since 2016.

By the end of the year, students are expected to have developed the academic skills and confidence to meet the challenges of a demanding undergraduate degree. On condition that they complete the year to the required level, students will progress onto an undergraduate degree at the University of Oxford without the need to re-apply. Alternatively, they will be awarded a nationally recognized Certificate in Higher Education (CertHE) and will be supported making applications to other undergraduate degrees elsewhere.

The new scheme is now available via the UCAS website. Students will be able to submit their applications from 6 September 2022 and all applicants must apply via UCAS by 25 January 2023. The first cohort of successful students will be admitted in October 2023.

The Annual Admissions Statistical Report 2022, released today, shows the progress the University has made over the past few years in diversifying its undergraduate student body. Figures today show that 21 per cent of Oxford’s intake in 2021 came from disadvantaged, underrepresented backgrounds. This has risen from 13 per cent four years ago and is approaching the University’s target of 25%. The figures for the 2021 intake also show 68% came from state schools, retaining the large increase achieved in the previous year. The University has continued its progress in the proportion of UK undergraduates identifying as Black and Minority Ethnic (BME), rising from 18% to 25% over the past five years.