Our history


In 2013, a major research paper by Dr Vikki Bolliver showed a persistent "Access Gap" in university applications. Despite achieving the same grades as their privately-educated peers, applicants from the state sector were a third less likely to receive an offer from a leading university.

Further research from Dr Steven Jones published by the Sutton Trust showed that this gap in university offers for equal-attainment students could be linked to the quality of applicants' personal statements.

With the support of the Sutton Trust, we designed the Academic Apprenticeship, which sought to improve each part of the personal statement and, most crucially, to improve academic content through a topic of interest or analysed case study.

The results were impressive. 100% of students in the study group received at least one offer from a Russell Group university, contrasted to 73% in a control group.

From the start, we wanted to use this research to create a solution which could be used by all students in every school and could provide teachers with a powerful tool for improving applications.

The evolution of OSCAR

Over 50 academics, teachers and educationalists have contributed to the development of OSCAR to whom we are extremely grateful.

The subject-specific activities which form the core of the OSCAR's personal statement functionality have been used and developed since 2013 in partnership with the Sutton Trust.

As part of the Academic Apprenticeship programme - a mentoring programme for Sutton Trust summer school students - OSCAR will be used by a range of universities including Bristol, King's College London, and University College London.

The OSCAR reference tool is already used by over 60 schools across the country who have participated in Sutton Trust Summer schools.

Lead Team

Helen Drummond

Helen Drummond

Dr Michael Englard

Dr Michael Englard

Sam Holmes

Sam Holmes

Helen taught in East London before setting up a university access programme for Teach First. Helen is a school governor in Harringey.

In addition to his work on university access, Michael teaches at the University of Cambridge where he has served as a Director of Studies. Michael is a fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Sam is a former teacher who conducts educational research at King's College London, and specialises in teacher development and school improvement. 

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