Postgraduate students from Britain and 13 other EU countries have arrived in Oxford to start their studies as part of a new scholarship scheme.
Oxford is welcoming 115 scholars funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), this Michaelmas term as part of a pilot scheme.
Oxford won the largest single institution grant of £3m under HEFCE's Postgraduate Support Scheme. Oxford has also invested an additional £750,000. The Oxford Graduate Scholarships, supported by HEFCE and other donors, consider socio-economic background and financial circumstances in addition to academic merit in the selection process. The scholarships are fully-funded, covering all fees and a grant for living expenses.
Dr Jane Sherwood, Director of Graduate Admissions and Funding, explained: 'Oxford's goal is that there should be no financial barriers to accessing postgraduate study. We warmly welcome the chance to take part in the HEFCE pilot scheme for taught postgraduate education. These courses are increasingly important for access to careers, as well as a bridge to doctoral study which can be too easily broken due to lack of funding.
'This scholarship scheme was very competitive, with almost 900 applicants and a 75 percent application rate from those eligible to apply. Looking ahead, Oxford has over 900 fully-funded scholarships available for new graduate students starting in 2015-16, provided by the University, our colleges and other supporters.'
The Oxford Graduate Scholars were welcomed with other scholars an event in Oxford's Sheldonian Theatre on 27 October. In total, over 1,000 new postgraduate students started their studies at Oxford this term supported by fully-funded scholarships.
Among those starting a HEFCE-funded master's programme this year is Simone Webb, who first came to Oxford as a sixth-form student attending the University's UNIQ summer school for state schools. After being accepted to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics as an undergraduate at Oxford, she is now pursuing a Master's in Women's Studies funded by an Oxford Graduate Scholarship, supported by HEFCE. She says:
'Doing a postgraduate degree was very important to me as my ultimate ambition is to go into academia, and a masters level degree is a necessary step into that, as well as a way of exploring the things which interest me most intellectually. Not receiving funding would have meant a complete rethink of my life plans, and doing something which I would have wanted to do a lot less.
'I would not have been able to do my course without the scholarship, and I believe funding which is allocated at least partly according to financial need is absolutely vital to help people take up graduate offers and contribute to their disciplines.'
Students at seminar rooms in Norham Gardens, North Oxford
Oxford's HEFCE-funded pilot project focuses on increasing mobility in full-time and part-time taught postgraduate study, helping students to enter a wide range of professions. It also aims to develop a greater understanding of the barriers to accessing taught postgraduate education.
Oxford’s project has three strands, the largest of which is scholarships. The project is also funding internships, and a programme in self-confidence and leadership skills for women on postgraduate taught courses.
The HEFCE scholarships are part of a wider and long-term drive to vastly increase the amount of scholarship funding available at Oxford. The Oxford Graduate Scholarships Matched Fund programme was launched in 2012 and this year has awarded 80 full scholarships to postgraduate students from around the world. The Matched Fund aims to create an endowment of £125 million for postgraduate scholarships (£75 million from donors, matched with £50m from the University), and should fund around 130 scholars per year.
For more information visit: the Oxford Graduate Scholarships website