“We already work closely with schools, but I feel sure that there is more we can do to build a teacher network that will encourage more strong candidates to apply, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds,” she wrote.
“I also want to turn the spotlight on ourselves, and ask how we should change the culture of Somerville and Oxford to ensure that we are welcoming to all.
“One of our students told me of her bemusement at being served an octopus terrine at the Freshers’ Dinner.
“I’m sure the cephalopod dish was delicious, but it might not be quite right for everyone. I have asked our catering colleagues to ensure that the first dinner at the beginning of term features dishes everyone is comfortable with.”
Somerville students greeted the move with mixed responses, with one calling it “tokenistic”.
He said: “Whilst this move appears to be a demonstration of the college taking access seriously, it’s more tokenistic than a serious step to improve access into the college. It also implies that octopus, and certain food dishes, are not for people from a particular background and should be reserved for the privilege few.”
Another Somerville undergraduate added: “Serving eccentric meals at the first dinner may have been off-putting to many students from disadvantaged background, but there are more important things to focus on it terms of reform.”
However, Joe Inwood, president of Oxford University’s student union, praised the move, saying: “It is great to see colleges listen to feedback from students and change the culture of a college to be more open to all.”