Applying to Oxford?
Growing links between Oxford University and International Schools
Dr Alex Pryce, Head of Student Recruitment at the University of Oxford, reflects on how gaining a deeper awareness of a university’s admissions process could benefit your students make the transition to Higher Education.
Making difficult choices
All teachers, guidance counsellors and careers advisors want to help their students make the best choices and successfully transition to the next part of their educational journey. Universities, on the other hand, are keen to welcome students who can benefit the most from what they can offer. Within the global Higher Education sector, students achieving the top grades will make tough choices. They rely, as ever, on guidance from their teachers. With different expectations and admissions processes within the UK, never mind the rest of the world, how do you offer that support?
University League Tables and selection requirements
League tables or selection requirements often become a proxy for choosing a university. While they can offer a starting point, grade requirements or rankings tell students little about the characteristics of study at different universities; the style of teaching, the content and approach to subjects offered on different courses, opportunities to gain other skills while on-course, career destinations, or what the admissions process is really looking for in candidates. With so much to consider and so much on offer, you should encourage your students to apply for institutions that are the best fit for their learning style and their aspirations. Understanding this will also help them to make the most competitive application they can.
Conferences for international schools
Once a year, and in addition to our usual three Open Days, the University of Oxford opens its doors to guidance counsellors, teachers and careers advisers employed by high schools outside of the UK to find out more about our admissions process, and to help equip you with the skills to identify the students who will thrive as part of our university community. Of course, we meet many teachers in Oxford, in schools and at conferences too, but an intensive 2-day residential programme is a quite different beast to chatting over coffee or at a conference stall. Those who have attended in the past have really valued the level of detail and hand-on aspects.
The next IGCC will take place in Oxford on Thursday 14 and Friday 15 February 2019. Unfortunately places for 2019 have now been taken up, but it is our intention to repeat the conference in 2020.
What have Counselors learned in previous conferences?
With so many institutions to choose from, though, why should you care enough to take time away from your classrooms to travel to Oxford? The UK is always a popular HE-destination – currently 19% of UK university places are filled by international and EU students. As a global university, the proportion of international and EU students attending Oxford as undergraduates is slightly higher, with 20% of our undergraduate student body made up of non-UK students, coming from around 150 different countries.
Our admissions are highly competitive. In 2017, we received on average more than six applications for each place we have available. The majority of those applicants had predicted or achieved grades that met our selection requirements, but our admissions process seeks to gain a better insight into academic potential and suitability for our style of learning. We do this through admissions tests, reviewing samples of written work, by meeting students at interview as well as the usual teacher reference and personal statements requires on the UCAS form.
At our February events we share in-depth information about the various parts of our application process, from how to support students in admissions test preparation to how to write a strong teacher reference as part of the UCAS form. Delegates also get to interact with some of the Oxford tutors who make the admissions decisions and current students who came to Oxford from outside of the UK to find out more about their experiences and perspectives. Plus, you can observe a mock interview and attend a real-life Oxford tutorial. Attending such a tutorial is something we don’t offer on any other programme and gives a real insight into what we value in students. As a training programme, the event is also CPD UK accredited.
Attending a conference is just one option for learning how to support your students in their applications. We regularly publish statistics which can help you set your students against the field in context, and we are always willing to answer your questions or speak with you. However, truly taking the time to upskill yourself in admissions for the universities your students aspire to can only help to strengthen their applications. If your school is regularly applying but not seeing offers arriving, understanding what lies beyond the process will surely impact on the advice and insights you can provide.
Dr Alex Pryce, Head of Student Recruitment at the University of Oxford
To learn more about applying to Oxford as an international student please see:
Photo credits: The Radcliffe Camera, by courtesy of the University of Oxford.