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Oxford University must become more diverse. But we’re already on the right path

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Varaidzo Kativhu is a second-year Oxford University undergraduate with a personal YouTube following of about 26,000 subscribers. An early episode of her weekly bulletins describing her time at university dealt with the issue of whether Oxford is diverse.

“No, no, flat out no,” she said as emphatically as she could. But she also told her viewers: “It is your job to make Oxford diverse.” In other words, “Do what I did: apply to study here and be part of the change.”

Vee, as she prefers to be known, has certainly done that. She’s an excellent student in classical archaeology and ancient history, and has done a stellar job of persuading others from non-traditional backgrounds to have a go at Oxford. In addition to her videos, she has run her own workshops, visited schools – and even been invited to Downing Street, and met Michelle Obama.

But Vee’s educational story is not quite straightforward. Her father died when she was young. Brought up by her mother, a mental health nurse, she moved from Zimbabwe to live in the West Midlands at seven years old, learning English as she went. She worked hard at her comprehensive school, gaining three good grades at A-level – but probably not quite enough to make a competitive application to Oxford.

How, then, did she make it? By being accepted as one of the first cohort to Lady Margaret Hall’s foundation year, which launched in October 2016. She was one of 11 students who kicked off a pioneering scheme to take young people with great potential but whose backgrounds had included considerable obstacles to learning.

Those obstacles are well known. A student from an area of economic deprivation is 27% less likely to score five A* to C grades at GCSE.........

© The Guardian