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The Next Generation

Target Oxbridge is a free programme that aims to increase African and Caribbean students’ chances of getting into Oxford and Cambridge. The development programme was founded by Naomi Kellman, Rare’s Schools, Universities and Data Manager, in 2012.

Three students from the first cohort of the programme graduated from Oxford last year and there are currently 18 Target Oxbridge alumni studying at both universities. A further 16 Target Oxbridge students hold offers from Oxford and Cambridge.

The University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge became official sponsors of Target Oxbridge this year which has enabled the programme to expand the number of places tenfold from its launch in 2012.

2017 has been a landmark year in the short but impactful history of Target Oxbridge. The programme received an unprecedented number of applications with over 170 students applying for 45 places. Students join Target Oxbridge in Year 12 and receive a range of developmental support including mentoring, academic workshops and visits to both Oxford and Cambridge. Through word of mouth, knowledge of Target Oxbridge has spread beyond London to the rest of the UK. Students on the current cohort travel from Lancashire, the West Midlands and South West England to attend trips to both universities, and development workshops in London over the summer. Target Oxbridge alumni have featured on BBC Radio 1 and 1XTRA as well as publications including The Telegraph. Naomi Kellman also discussed the programme on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.

Perhaps the biggest cause for celebration is the announcement that Oxford and Cambridge have become official partners of Target Oxbridge. This is an incredibly important moment for the programme that, since launching, has helped 46 students secure offers from both universities. Receiving sponsorship from Oxford and Cambridge will enable the programme to expand its number of places from 45 to 60 students in 2018 which is ten times the number of places offered when Target Oxbridge launched in 2012. Naomi Kellman, who has helped the programme to grow from six to sixty students, is “completely thrilled to have both Cambridge and Oxford on board as partners of Target Oxbridge. We have been working towards this since the launch of the programme in 2012. In partnership with both universities, we will be able to help even more students receive Oxbridge offers over the next few years.”

‘I am delighted to be able to facilitate the expansion of the Target Oxbridge programme. Oxford is committed to reaching under-represented groups and increasing the diversity of its student body. This carefully designed programme offers information and guidance that students may not have immediate access to, and I am pleased that Rare can provide it.’
Dr Samina Khan, Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach at Oxford University

Increasing the number of black students at Oxford and Cambridge is important beyond addressing racial inequality. It also sends a powerful message. In communities where many students are the first in their family to go to university, considering elite higher education institutions is a particularly daunting prospect. Taiwo, a second year Classicist at Wadham College, describes feeling that Oxford “had nothing to do with her” before joining Target Oxbridge. For many students, there is a sense of being torn from one community and being thrust into another. Will I make friends? Will I change? Will I like my new home?

However, alongside this discomfort is a driving belief in ‘aiming high’. As Rare’s recent research report, ‘Level Playing Field? Super Schools, Social Mobility and Star Outperformers,’ shows, students who are the first in their family to go to university tend to outperform their peers by 15%.

“We are delighted to be strengthening our relationship with Rare through our sponsorship of Target Oxbridge, and look forward to welcoming to Cambridge more of the high-achieving aspirational black students that the programme supports.”
Jon Beard, Director of Undergraduate Recruitment at the University of Cambridge

Target Oxbridge helps to mediate students’ sense of a trade-off between belonging and academic excellence by helping to level the playing field. Providing students with social capital in the form of networks, confidence building and access to top academics not only improves students’ chances of getting an offer. It also improves their chances of success when they arrive at Oxford or Cambridge.

Reflecting on her own experience on the programme, Taiwo remembers believing “I can do this. There’s nothing holding me back apart from myself”. There is certainly strength in numbers. As the Target Oxbridge family grows, with the help of Oxford and Cambridge, we hope to see more and more black students attend these prestigious institutions.


Joshua Ilelaboye
Journey to Oxford
“My journey to Oxford was nothing short of a God given miracle in my opinion. While I was ambitious and somewhat talented, the closer I got to applying to university, the less I felt I had the ability to get into Oxford. When my eyes were opened to the calibre of students they accepted, the thought of applying became more daunting and the feeling of mediocrity set in. But Target Oxbridge helped me realise Oxford is also looking for potential and the scheme helped to draw that potential out on the journey to applying. I joined the programme five months later than other students but several of the right factors came together at just the right time: Target Oxbridge was the pivotal one.”
Joshua Ilelaboye, first year engineer at Christ Church College, Oxford

Michael Harvey
The Value of Target Oxbridge
“The most valuable aspect of Target Oxbridge was having a group of people who were aspiring to get to the same place as me. This enabled me to focus on my work and manage the pressure of being the only Oxbridge applicant from my school. The summer development programme also played an important role in providing me with the necessary skills to succeed. Though I didn’t realise their benefits at the time, I now appreciate being able to organise my time and my ability to interact with different groups of people. This definitely bridged the gap from school to university.”
Michael Harvey, first year engineer at Homerton College, Cambridge

Imani Shola
Experiences Sponsored By Cambridge
“I had an amazing time in Tanzania on a trip with the Cambridge Development Initiative - I learnt so much! I particularly enjoyed bonding with the Tanzanian volunteers and also getting closer to the UK volunteers. Chicken chasing was definitely one of the highlights of the trip! Over the weeks I learnt a range of skills including pitching, writing press releases, attending meetings with important stakeholders, teaching and leading workshops. It was a real learning curve!”
Imani Shola, second year French and Spanish student at Churchill College, Cambridge

Taiwo Oyebola
Being Black at Oxford Matters
“Coming to Oxford has affected my life and the lives of others. I was the first person from my school to apply and to get into Oxford. Showing other black people that it is possible has a ripple effect and has definitely inspired others. But, it is also important to show those outside of the black community that we are capable of getting it. In this way, being a black student at Oxford is much more than a personal achievement. It is also a political achievement - there is space for you and for us here.”
Taiwo Oyebola, second year classicist at Wadham College, Oxford