Our Central Values: Building a Better ACS
We understand that the real value of our society comes from our ability to collaborate with our members, other societies and the wider community. We aim to help create a dynamic and productive environment which engages everyone we work with.
At Oxford ACS, our goal is to enhance the student experience of Oxford by celebrating the richness and diversity of African and Caribbean culture. This lies at the heart of all our activities. We also deem it our responsibility to bridge the gap between our community’s potential and real opportunities in a variety of fields, including our careers and access initiatives.
Our ultimate goal as an ACS is to become a positive force for our members and a constant source of social value in the communities we work in. We believe that as a collaborative society we have the ability to empower not just our own members but everyone we have an opportunity to work with.
Addressing Under-Representation of Black Students in Oxford
The underrepresentation of black students is something that Oxford has struggled with throughout its history as an institution. Although the University has made considerable progress in recent years, there is still a very long way to go to combat the inherent rigidity of the institution – something the recently released admissions data has been very useful in reminding us. Yes, it is true that the data reveals significant issues of institutionalised cultural and economic bias at Oxford; however, it is also true that Oxford is a microcosm of the deep structural issues embedded in the British education system.
Admissions data does not show how many young black students are actively discouraged from applying to Oxford by their teachers, despite achieving the grades, because ‘Oxford isn’t for them’. Admissions data does not show how a disproportionate number of black students attend schools in low-income areas, many of which are underfunded, understaffed and lack the resources to provide their students with the curricular breadth demanded by institutions like Oxford. Admissions data does not show how our education system has continually failed students from particular cultural and economic backgrounds, a system that tells many intelligent black students that their creativity and intellectualism isn’t credible because they don’t look like a ‘typical’ Oxford student or fit in with the mainstream notions of academia that underpin the cultural experiences ad esoteric depth favoured by traditional institutions like Oxford. Admissions data can tell you a lot, but it does not show you our personal experiences or the stories of the hundreds of prospective black students that engage with our access initiatives every year.
This is why we believe that the most effective solutions to the lack of diversity at institutions like Oxford need to be comprehensive enough to engage with socio-economic barriers at the institutional level. We have, with support from Oxford’s Undergraduate Admissions Office, developed an independent access framework that focuses on equipping young black students, as early as year 9, with the tools they need to develop their cultural, social, and intellectual capital and effectively apply them in spaces like Oxford and beyond, while providing them with a dedicated support system of current black Oxford students to guide them through the admissions process.
Our commitment to access and outreach has resulted in an array of initiatives for prospective black students at various levels: the Annual Access Conference (AAC), one of the largest student-run access conferences in the UK, supports over 200 A-level students of African and Caribbean descent from state-schools across the country in making competitive applications to the University of Oxford every year; our Visions Programme addresses the disenfranchisement felt by a large proportion of black students in comprehensive state schools across London by conducting tailored workshops and exposing them to spaces that show how education adds value beyond the classroom; and the Shadowing Scheme gives prospective black students the opportunity to shadow current African and Caribbean Oxford undergraduates and gain a realistic insight into the black student experience at Oxford. All of these initiatives have been designed and organised by members of Oxford ACS, black students at Oxford that are dedicating their time to bring about the institutional change they want to see.
While this represents only a portion of the ever-expanding access and outreach initiatives for black students actively supported by the University, neither the ACS nor the University should be satisfied. It is important that we continue to hold institutions like Oxford to account, but just as the problem does not start at Oxford, our efforts to address it cannot stop at Oxford. Complicated problems require collaborative solutions. To succeed in creating an educational environment that works for everyone and enables all students to be proactive in their pursuit of excellence, we need to take collective responsibility as a society to identify and address the implicit barriers that manifest at every stage of the black student experience.
With that being said, we welcome collaboration and dialogue with any parties truly concerned with this issue and encourage them to engage with us to develop solutions together.
For any prospective black students interested in applying to Oxford, even if you just want to engage with a community of black students at Oxford that care, we want you to know that the ACS will always be here for you so don’t be afraid to get in touch.’
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