£800k Oxbridge collaboration announced to remove ‘barriers to postgraduate education’

The funding will go towards improving the admission of students from underrepresented minority ethnic backgrounds

The University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford will share a £800,000 grant awarded by the Office for Students (OfS) and Research England (RE) to “improve the admission of students from under-represented minority ethnic backgrounds into the highest level of postgraduate education.”

A press release by the University of Cambridge noted that the proportion of White students who enter postgraduate study presently exceeds the proportion of students from minority ethnic backgrounds. This difference is greatest for Black British, British Pakistani and British Bangladeshi students.

It is even greater for students who wish to progress into doctoral study, meaning that “fewer people from minority ethnic backgrounds progress into academia as a career, resulting in fewer professors with these heritages.”


Both Cambridge and Oxford will collaborate to “develop and test a range of new admissions practices and systems.” These new practices will then be tested in “16 volunteer departments, eight in each University.” 

The institutions will consider “the extent to which systems need to adapt better to take account of different student pathways and trajectories” and “the availability of support through the transition from undergraduate to postgraduate study.” 

The foremost aim is halving the offer gap between the proportion of postgraduate applicants from White and minority ethnic backgrounds by 2025. The collaboration seeks to remove the gap altogether by 2035, “within one school generation.”

Professor Graham Virgo, the University of Cambridge’s Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor, claimed that he was “really pleased to be partnering with the University of Oxford.” He also suggested the existence of “a wider desire across the [higher education] sector to collaborate to bring about transformational change in representation in postgraduate study.”

Cambridge will also collaborate with University College London and City University.

Dr. Katherine Powlesland, the Postgraduate Widening Participation Manager at the University of Cambridge, articulated her delight at participating with the two universities to offer “72 paid internships over three years to Black British, British Bangladeshi, and British Pakistani undergraduates as part of the collaboration.”

Dr. Powlesland added that the University was “excited to be pushing for real change in minority ethnic representation in academic research.”

Feature image credits: Ardfern via Wikimedia Commons, under this Creative Commons Licence

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