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UNIQ at Oxford

By Agata Bakalorz

Widening participation and access to education is something Oxford is particularly focused on. In recent years, there has been an extra effort made to shift that century-old stereotype - that those who study here must be Eton or Harrow educated, come from ‘old money’ (whatever that means) and possess certain skills of etiquette, dress, and speech. This is, however, far from the truth, with HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency) reporting that 57.7% of Oxford students are state educated. The university has been striving to rid itself of this label, and one way it is doing this is through the UNIQ programme.


Since 2010, UNIQ has been granting state educated, high achieving students the chance to experience a few days of university here. Priority is given to students from under-represented and diverse backgrounds, who may have otherwise not considered Oxford at all, or not thought themselves capable of attending this university.


It is a free residential (and online!) programme aimed at students who are at the end of year 12, with applications opening each January (unfortunately they are now closed for 2024 but will reopen next year for the following cohort).


While on UNIQ, I received help with forming my application, interview tips, help with writing a personal statement, guidance for the entrance exam (this depends on your course), as well as an opportunity to explore the city during the summer, and form valuable friendships!


The programme is separated into subjects, and in my Theology and Religion course, I was given an assignment, asked to research a topic and write an essay plan relevant to a module on the BA course. I was also given the opportunity to have a tutorial with a tutor.


I also really enjoyed meeting undergraduates and being immersed in Oxford academic life. I even made my decision to apply to St John’s College because one of the UNIQ representatives told me about it. UNIQ was completely different to how I had imagined it, and it put me at ease that if I managed to get in, I would be surrounded by so many lovely people. UNIQ allows students from under-represented backgrounds to feel more at home here, and realise that Oxford really is for them, too.


If you applied for the 2024 year, and were not successful in gaining a place, don’t worry! There are only a limited number of spots, and many, many amazing applicants. Attending UNIQ does not guarantee you a place on a degree course, and it does not increase your chances. It is just an opportunity to be around like-minded people and engage fully in your subject. You can achieve the same thing by immersing yourself into your subject at home through reading, visiting museums/galleries, attending free university lectures, and finding people who are also interested in what you want to study here.


If you were successful in securing a place for this years’ programme round – congratulations! Have fun, enjoy the city, and good luck with your university applications in the autumn!


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