Enabling Diversity

Introducing school students to Oxford is always a pleasure, but St Anne’s Outreach team were delighted to work with the Naz Legacy Foundation on 1 November for a rather special day.

24 young people from East London who are part of the Naz Foundation’s programme visited St Anne’s for a Diversity Day, finding out more about the university and meeting our students.  They were a highly-engaged, able group, from three schools, who worked very actively together during the day, and really made the most of the opportunity.

Their visit included a presentation on Oxford and other competitive universities, exploring the benefits of the education we offer, and looking at how to prepare for a successful application. Year 11 and 12 students met current undergraduates, talking to them and looking around St Anne’s to find out more about how a college works.

After lunch, the students and their teachers visited the Ashmolean Museum and worked in the Near Eastern Gallery, finding out more about the people who inhabited ancient Mesopotamia.  Working in small groups, they explored the exhibition and presented to everyone else the objects they found of particular interest.  We thank the Ashmolean, and especially Kate Mervyn Jones from their schools team, who gave such an expert context to the work the students were doing.

Days such as this focus not only on giving information but also on enabling discussion of university, and encouraging young people to talk more confidently about academic topics.  This particular group were very receptive to the opportunities on offer and talked throughout the day with St Anne’s students and Outreach Officers, Jackie Watson and George Hobart.

The Foundation, supported by COSARAF Charitable Foundation, runs a Diversity Programme that aims to connect underrepresented young people from diverse backgrounds to cultural and career experiences that help raise awareness of different opportunities and histories. The Diversity Programme selects cultural experiences that highlight the role of underrepresented people in history or promote careers that traditionally see fewer numbers of young people from diverse backgrounds pursuing these opportunities or experiences.  They work with a large number of schools in and around London to do this, including Caterham High School, Forest Academy and Azhar Academy, who visited us.

It was a pleasure to see the feedback at the end of their day in Oxford.  One student commented, “I learnt that stereotypes about Oxford university are mainly not true”, and another said, “It has made me think differently about university as I thought they were only about lectures and made me more likely to go”.  One young woman felt that the day “challenged what I thought because my idea of university was very closed minded, thinking that only certain people could apply”.

Challenging stereotypes is key to enabling students from different backgrounds to access what Oxford has to offer.  As one visitor commented, the Diversity Day “definitely challenged and changed the stereotype I had of Oxford University. It made it seem attainable and less out of reach”

The COSARAF Charitable Foundation, who supported the Naz Foundation in making the event happen, already generously sponsor undergraduates at St Anne’s.  The students currently holding COSARAF Scholarships took part in the Diversity Day, encouraging the next generation.  Enabling students who may not otherwise be at Oxford, and therefore may not access the education offered by a world-leading university, is the aim of the Foundation, our college Outreach team and St Anne’s undergraduate ambassadors.  It was very good to bring those ambitions together for what we hope will be an annual event.

Jackie Watson, Outreach Officer