Mansfield College is doing a great job of increasing diversity levels at Oxford. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Mansfield College is doing a great job of increasing diversity levels at Oxford. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The University of Oxford has made headlines all too often for its lack of diversity – from the gender imbalance on University Challenge to the social apartheid in the admissions process.

And the issue doesn’t seem to be showing improvement. Oxford and Cambridge have both been accused of becoming even less diverse in their 2017 intake.

But one Oxford college stands out from the sea of homogeneity.

Over 90 percent of students enrolled at Mansfield College this academic year (2017-18) came from state schools.

The BBC reported JCR Committee president Joe Inwood claimed Mansfield College was founded in order to help those who were previously excluded. This ethos has remained at the heart of the college ever since.

Established in 1886, Mansfield’s original ideology was providing ‘nonconformist ministers’ access to higher education. Today, the college applies this to its student admissions.

The BBC reported that many of Oxford’s colleges were intended to be “exclusive and elitist” and this foundation seems unbreakable. Many students from working-class backgrounds feel that attending Oxford is an unreachable dream.

Codie Wood is one of those students. Speaking to the BBC the first-year maths student said: “Oxford always seemed something kind of unattainable.

“It was something that posher people from private schools went for, and not something I would have considered.”

But Mansfield took her on for her talent and drive, not her background.

The staff at Mansfield attribute the college’s success to one of its access and outreach programmes. In the programme representatives from the college visit schools up and down the UK each year, to encourage students who may not feel able to apply to Oxford to do so.

The programme involves roughly one third of all Mansfield students and has been described as very “human”. Young people who don’t attend private schools are able to realise they do have the potential to study at Oxford.

Back, in 2001 the college’s state school intake was 67.1 percent. This has risen steadily over the last 16 years and has now reached an all-time high of 91.4 percent.

Recently, the college has received the best results it has had in history. Mansfield’s exceptional results show that implementing more accessible admissions does not sacrifice the quality of students.

MP David Lammy told the BBC “the talent is there if Oxbridge colleges make it a priority to go out to hard-to-reach areas and find it.” It seems Mansfield is doing just that.

“Our ultimate aim is that everyone should feel like Oxford is an option for them,” said Mansfield’s Access and Admissions Officer Helen Brook speaking with the BBC, “regardless of where they come from.” 

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