Common Room

The Importance of Outreach: in conversation with St. Anne’s JCR

Image: Hartland House, of St. Anne’s College, viewed from the college quadrangle.

I spoke with Maya Walker, one of the Welfare Reps for St. Anne’s JCR, as well as Rebecca Tearle, their access officer, to find out about the access and outreach work they do. As a fellow Geordie, Maya was proud to explain that she’s been involved in some work that St. Anne’s does with Christ Church and Trinity, with support from Lincoln College, on a project called Oxford for North East. The project’s website explains that one of its goals is to “increase the number of students from currently under-represented groups from 15% of the current UK undergraduate intake to 25% of the UK undergraduate intake” by 2023.

Many people link the proportionately small intake of students from the [North East] with its low proportion of private schools.

The work with Oxford for North East has included sessions over Zoom with prospective applicants to discuss personal statements and other general questions, trying to dispel the myths that we hear about Oxford. This is especially important for the North East, as many people link the proportionately small intake of students from the region with its low proportion of private schools – with 28 out of over 1150, or 2.4%, of schools in the North East being classified as “independent,” compared to the UK average of 6.5%.

Ambassadors at St Anne’s have also made accounts on The Access Platform, where prospective students can ask questions 24/7, and ambassadors are able to answer them directly; “this is highly addictive – I find myself answering questions in the early AM,” Maya added. St Anne’s college website integrates The Access Platform, which can be found here. Rebecca followed this up by explaining that the St. Anne’s team have been working on the latest iteration of their Alternative Prospectus, which she and Sanaa (St. Anne’s JCR president) found particularly important, as they wanted it to cover the concerns of students from underrepresented backgrounds, and to include some honest experiences of the difficulties they have faced. St Anne’s outreach team have also been developing a presence on YouTube with current students talking about their courses and giving tips for applications, as well as “St. Anne’s Shorts” where students spend five minutes discussing something that they have been studying.

One of Rebecca’s key focuses was the fact that financing the costs of university and the prospect of debt can be particularly daunting to prospective students hailing from low-income backgrounds, so she has shared template budgeting spreadsheets with the members of her JCR, which will also be sent to their incoming freshers. She plans to run sessions with the Anne’s freshers in Michaelmas Term to help them adapt the spreadsheet to cover their own costs – her work is tried and tested, as she has shared it with friends at other universities in the past who had financial concerns, but this method allowed them to plan out their finances and not have to worry about them.

As many colleges do, St. Anne’s has an Instagram account, run by the members of their JCR. The committee feels that the whole account should be run by the JCR to show the full student experience at the college, and to allow their members to address questions which come to them on a rolling basis from their students. Students will soon also be able to submit their own photos to the account for posting, along with captions to show the perspectives of all types of students from the wealth of backgrounds which Oxford boasts.

“St. Anne’s is a very accommodating and forward-thinking college.”

Overall, St. Anne’s JCR committee members and student body as a whole show a real dedication to the access work that they do, setting an example for the other colleges, and showing students from “non-traditional” backgrounds that Oxford is a place for anyone. As Maya put it, “St. Anne’s is a very accommodating and forward-thinking college, […] I could literally big up St. Anne’s for days.” 

Image: Stannered, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

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