This Oxford grad has helped 50 disadvantaged students get Oxbridge places this year
He’s proving you can help get low-income students into Britain’s top unis without it costing a penny
"Almost everyone agrees, at least in principle, that the socio-economic status and geographic area in which a person was raised should not dictate their chances of success in life."
These are the words of Joe Seddon, the 21-year-old Yorkshire-born graduate from Oxford Uni, who was the first in his family to attend university, achieving a first class honours degree. He stood out due to his northern accent and the fact his area was one of the worst for getting kids into Oxbridge.
Also unlike his fellow Oxford grads, he turned down a job in the City and instead set up "Access Oxbridge", an organisation that matches Oxbridge student volunteers with students from underprivileged backgrounds who want extra help with their application or interview prep.
We spoke to Joe a few months back about his plans for Access Oxbridge as part of our 10x campaign, and now Access Oxbridge have helped 50 students from disadvantaged backgrounds get places at the UK's two best unis.
Joe noticed from his experience the astronomically unfair advantage that middle class students received when applying to Oxbridge, and how little support disadvantaged students got in comparison – so he did something about it. A year after launching his program, he's successfully changed the lives of 50 school kids for the better.
Fellow Oxford student, and the youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate, Malala Yousafzai has prasied the site as "amazing" on her social media and when it was launched over 100 mentors signed up after the site had been live for only one hour.
The scheme has turned out to be a raging success and has had a life changing effect on students who used the mentoring service. Joe said: "The university place results have come out recently for Oxford and Cambridge and we've had 50 students get into the institutions, which is pretty incredible. It's great to see we've gamed the system in a way".
Sixth form student Abigail Fox mentored with Access Oxbridge for three months, and as a result received an offer from Balliol College to study English Literature. The 18-year-old attended a state school in Birmingham and is the first in her family to get a place at university, let alone one of the most prestigious unis in the UK.
She was elated at the support provided through Access Oxbridge, saying: "What at first seemed so unreachable and alien was made something closer and more achievable, what once seemed a pipe dream turned into a realistic goal and now a reality. So I really cannot thank you enough.”
Joe said this is proof that widening participation can be done and has urged universities to drastically improve the support during applications. He said: "The universities should start funding engagement programmes like this because their own activities in it – it costs Oxford £108,000 to recruit each extra low-income student – Access Oxbridge has done it absolutely for free.
"The universities are so wrapped up in their own image they are not willing for anyone to tarnish it, which is very disappointing and needs to change in the future."
Joe previously spoke to us about how the application processes for Oxbridge are almost tailored to benefit students from middle class backgrounds, and how scarce the support is for students from less privileged backgrounds. He also stressed how important it is that universities acknowledge the role of social media in application processes to provide more information and help to students. as best they can. Joe told The Tab: "That's where young people are nowadays and that's the easiest way to reach them. I think the problem with the university is that they haven't really understood that.
"Middle class families are playing to the UCAS application process to get their children into Oxbridge. Middle class kids and the people at the top – they know how the system works, they know the unofficial rules of the game and that's a big problem because disadvantaged students don't know the rules of the game.
"This is all about expanding that knowledge to disadvantaged students because at the end of the day I don't want to be a revolutionary who calls for the system to be brought down because that's not what I think is the best thing and that's not going to work for disadvantaged students."
Joe's site was funded from his own pocket, and works by matching students in "low socio-economic" postcodes that have achieved six A or A* GCSE grades to one of 200 Oxbridge mentors that signed up since last year. Mentors then provide mock interviews, assistance with personal statements and applications and guide the student through the process based on their own experience.
Joe has proved how students from any background are more than capable of attending – they have just simply been deprived of the support from the system.
His site is breaking down the classist conception of top university admissions and uprooting the talent that has been neglected behind a lengthy, elitist application process for years.
Sign up to volunteer for Access Oxbridge here.
The Tab's 10x Campaign on fairness in uni admissions is named after how much more likely privileged students are to progress to a top uni. If you want to contribute to The Tab's 10x Campaign with a personal story or news tip, please email [email protected]