ONE in four Oxford undergraduates will come from a disadvantaged background by 2023, the university has pledged. 

Announcing a 'sea change' in its admissions policies, Oxford University today launched two schemes aimed at helping bright but poorer applicants. 

It includes offering places with lower grades to students with potential who can't currently achieve the academic standards necessary due to their present circumstances.

This could include refugees and children in care or those with caring responsibilities.

The announcement comes as elite universities are under increased pressure to widen access and make sure students from poorer backgrounds are not put off from applying.

'Opportunity Oxford' will be introduced during the next round of admissions. It will see the introduction of a study programme for up to 200 students who have applied in the normal way and are on course to gain the required grades, but need additional support to transition successfully from school.

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The scheme will comprise of structured study at home plus two weeks of residential study at Oxford just before the start of the undergraduate term.

The second scheme, to be known as 'Foundation Oxford', will be a full-year programme open to students who have personally experienced particularly severe disadvantage or educational disruption.

This aims to open up places to students with high academic potential who, owing to their circumstances, are not yet in a position to make a competitive Oxford application.

Once in operation, offers for Foundation Oxford will be made on the basis of lower contextual A-level grades, rather than the University's standard offers.

The participants will all be based at Oxford colleges and, provided they successfully complete the programme, will move on to the undergraduate degree for which they were admitted.

The vice-chancellor of Oxford University, Professor Louise Richardson, said: "This is a sea change in Oxford admissions.

"Colleagues from across the University, its colleges and departments have united behind a commitment to accelerate the pace at which we are diversifying our student body and ensuring that every academically exceptional student in the country knows that they have a fair chance of a place at Oxford."

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The university says the programmes will offer places for up to 250 state school students a year, representing 10 per cent of Oxford's UK undergraduate intake.

This represents a significant step change for the university, boosting the proportion of students coming to Oxford from under-represented backgrounds from 15 per cent of the current UK intake to 25 per cent.

Chris Millward, director for fair access and participation at the Office for Students, said: "Radical change is needed if gaps in access between the most and least advantaged students are to shrink at the most selective universities.

"These proposals from Oxford are a positive step in the right direction, although of course there is much more to do.

"The Office for Students has, and will continue to, put pressure on these universities to close the gaps which mean five times more students from advantaged backgrounds are admitted compared to their disadvantaged peers."