Statement on A-Level Admissions 2020

St Anne’s College is committed to widening access to Oxford and becoming ever more diverse and inclusive. This year, like every year, College tutors and staff have worked with great care to ensure that any capacity we have to accept candidates who have not met their offer conditions is prioritised to those who have been most disadvantaged. This year, that has included recognition that the method used to allocate  grades has had a disproportionate effect on high achieving pupils in state, non-selective and lower performing schools and Colleges.

This January, based on the experience of previous years, subject tutors made offers to 146 candidates, whilst the College has teaching capacity for 128 and bedrooms for 126 freshers. Since then, our Covid-19 preparations, to protect the physical and mental wellbeing of all members of the College next term, have meant that the number of available bedrooms will be reduced by 27 and teaching staff will suffer increased pressures. Nonetheless, we have admitted more offer holders who did not achieve their grades than ever before and thus have exceeded our usual teaching and accommodation capacities. We have not accepted every offer holder who missed their grades. This is both because the College does not have the capacity to do so and also because not all of them come from schools that have been disadvantaged by this year’s system, which has awarded more top grades overall. 

Across the University half of offer holders who didn’t receive the  grades required have now had their places confirmed. For St Anne’s, 27 offer holders were not awarded the required grades and we have confirmed places for 19 (70%) of them. Amongst those who received confirmation of their place at the College through UCAS on Thursday morning are students from schools and colleges that have never sent anyone to Oxbridge before and students who have experienced Local Authority care, homelessness and other significant disadvantage. Unusually, some of them have A-levels that are more than a grade or two below their offer as we have recognised that, as outlier high achievers in schools without a history of top grades, they have not had a chance to demonstrate their abilities in the system that has been applied this year. Since the College received awarded grades last Monday morning, everything we know about every offer holder whose grades were below their offer has been extensively and carefully reviewed, including information about schools, home postcodes and personal details provided in teacher references or school submissions. We are proud of the great care and lengthy hours committed by tutors and staff in their efforts to be fair and supportive to all offer holders.

We will of course provide advice on the appeals procedure to any disappointed applicants who need it and, if their appeals are successful, confirm their place for 2021 entry. However, doing so for all offer-holders would add to the disadvantages that 6th form pupils about to enter Y13 will face in applying to Oxford in the next admissions round. We are already concerned that disparities in the quality and quantity of online teaching provided by different schools to pupils in this year group over important months of their A-level courses will generate even greater barriers for disadvantaged applicants aspiring to apply to Oxford next year. To compound this by filling a significant proportion of places prior to the start of the admissions process would be a major concern for them and for admitting tutors, who strive to identify the very best students from all backgrounds.

Over the last three years the proportion of students admitted to St Anne’s from areas of socio-economic deprivation, areas with low levels of progression to Higher Education, and from Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities have all continued to grow steadily. 67% of last year’s St Anne’s UK freshers were from state schools, compared with 60% in the University overall. This year St Anne’s has been a leading early adopter of the new Opportunity Oxford programme and we look forward to welcoming one of the highest numbers of students on the programme of any College. St Anne’s also is actively involved in progressing access work across the University with three senior members of the College sitting on the University’s Admissions Executive, which has ensured that the University highlighted to policy makers and the government at every opportunity in the last few months that the system used this year was likely to exacerbate already worrying inequalities in educational attainment and opportunity.

We share this detailed information to provide assurance that, despite the difficult and insecure times, St Anne’s is determined to remain true to the proud legacy of our predecessors who over 140 years ago opened an Oxford education to women, whilst securing our future as a College that is truly diverse, forward looking, outward facing, ambitious, rigorous, supportive, and down to earth.