OxNet operates on a Hub model, with a Hub School and a network of Link Schools in each target local authority, through which academic activity is organised. Coordinators based in Hub Schools are responsible for OxNet activity across a local area, whilst also tapping into larger regional and national networks. Regional clusters of Hubs allow all activity convened across an entire region to be shared amongst all Hub and Link Schools, thereby strengthening the networks.
OxNet is unapologetically academic in focus. Through its Hub and Link Schools, OxNet harnesses the power of networks to deliver academically-intensive courses, lectures, study days and summer schools locally, across a wide range of subject areas with particular sensitivity to subjects less popular or not taught in state schools.
Where does OxNet operate?
Currently, six OxNet Hubs have been established: two in Greater London, and four in the North West of England. A seventh is opening in 2017 in the North East, with the intention of opening further Hubs in the region. Particular attention paid to those areas with the lowest levels of engagement with Higher Education, although ultimately OxNet’s aspiration is to achieve national coverage.
Who is involved in OxNet?
OxNet exists as a partnership between participating Oxford colleges and the central university’s Undergraduate Admissions Office (UAO). In addition, through its networks, OxNet works with well over a dozen higher education institutions both regionally and nationally, and also with a number of research projects, charities, third-sector organisations, and businesses, such as the Orwell Youth Prize, the Karta Initiative, and the Ordered Universe project.
The University of Oxford offers a range of widening access and participation programmes, working with the undergraduate admissions office to ensure that the best pupils from every kind of background can benefit from studying at Oxford. Of the college schemes, Pembroke College’s Access & Outreach scheme has been particularly successful and has developed a programme over the past 7 years in the form of Pem-Brooke
London and Pembroke North. Led by the College’s Access Fellow, Dr Peter Claus, this project offers hard-to-reach pupil robust academic content in the form of seminars, lectures, tutorials and academic courses. The bulk of the scheme is delivered in the school and the local community, with a member of staff based in the school to administer the programme. The scheme consists of three main streams;
- academic course
- university extension
- subject series.
Each strand offers a tailored programme delivered to different audiences on different scales and levels. The Academic Course offers a year long, multiple intervention programme for a selected number of pupils organised out of a hub school/college. University Extension delivers a wider range of academic subjects, delivered by partner universities and academics, across linked sixth forms and colleges in the region. Lastly, the Subject Centres offer pupils, teachers and members of the wider community the opportunity to discover more about a subject area that is not part of the national curriculum. This third strand covers the widest of the geographical catchment areas.
OxNet has been designed in full compliance with the most recent guidance from the Office for Fair Access (OFFA), and the emphasis is firmly on preparing state-educated pupils from a wide spectrum of backgrounds, including the lowest social quintiles, to enter Oxford and other competitive universities as part of a long-term commitment to social mobility. OxNet is an ambitious programme, which harnesses a whole-institution methodology with a pupil-lifecycle approach. There are three distinct elements to the scheme which separate it from the more conventional IAG (information, advice and guidance schemes) offered by other UK HEIs. In so doing, OxNet brings together the potency and reach of Oxford and Hub school networks with rigorous in-school academic immersion into university-level learning and disseminates its outputs to a diverse audience. Pupils are encouraged to work with often-unfamiliar texts and to write insightful essays, understand and manipulate data, refine their critical thinking skills, and explore a wider range of subjects and fields when applying to universities. OxNet encourages its participants to leave the scheme with a greater sense of confidence and knowledge about HE institutions and the doors that an application to a competitive institution might open.
OxNet began as a unique collaboration between two very different educational institutions –Pembroke College, Oxford, founded in 1624, and Brooke House Sixth Form College (BSix) in Hackney, London, founded in 2002. It was initially aimed at broadening the social and intellectual horizons of young people in London’s East End, with a focus on improving access to competitive universities. BSix acts as the lead institution, or hub, responsible for formulating and coordinating educational activities across the collaboration, while academics and students at Pembroke College provide teaching, mentoring, and advice on university applications. This provision has now been extended beyond BSix to pupils at schools and colleges across Hackney. Within just five years, the collaboration made a substantial impact. Applications to BSIx have quadrupled since 2008 and the number of pupils winning places at Russell Group or 1994 Group universities have increased from 12 in 2010 to 54 in 2013. The first successful Oxbridge pupils took their places in 2010. The success of Pem-Brooke London was a major factor in BSix being named Outstanding Provider of the Year at the Times Education Supplement (TES) Further Education Awards in 2011. Pembroke College to has benefited from the link: undergraduates and postgraduates alike have gained valuable teaching experience – leading many to consider a career as teachers- and have benefited from passing on insights gained in their own studies to others.
The model of Pem-Brooke London has, since 2012, been extended to the regions around Manchester for which Pembroke acts as the link College for Oxford University. In partnership with South Cheshire College and Ashton Sixth Form College, ‘Pembroke North’ has been established. The Pembroke North model has been further expanded to include Winstanley College in Wigan and Westminster Academy in London.
Each Hub institution is located in, or near, areas where social quintile 1 and 2 pupils are likely to live, and the scheme’s success is largely due to its embedded nature in the community it serves. Each Hub school employs a full-time Coordinator who is responsible for managing the delivery of the project within the Hub, as well as working with Linked Schools across the target region to create a network of Oxford-led activity. Courses are then taught by Oxford academics and students, with input from other, local HEIs as appropriate.