ONE of Oxford University's richest colleges is attempting to hack away at 'deep-rooted' divides between town and gown.

Christ Church College has launched a new initiative to attract applicants from a wider range of backgrounds, and boost the experience of more deprived undergraduates.

The college, which is the second-wealthiest of all 38 at the university, has put aside a fresh pot of money for poorer students.

Dr Jennifer Yee, tutor for admissions at Christ Church, admitted that 'maintaining and broadening diversity is something we need to work on'.

But she added: "I came to Christ Church from a completely non-Oxford background myself, and I've found it to be a remarkably friendly and relaxed place.

"The people here come from much more diverse backgrounds than you might think."

Figures obtained by the Oxford Mail last year exposed stark admissions figures across the university of people from more deprived areas of Oxford.

Of 292 places awarded in the past decade to people from the city, none were from Blackbird Leys and only a tiny fraction were from areas such as Barton and Cowley.

Christ Church dean, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, said: "This new suite of initiatives will, we hope, continue our work in this arena.

"We are pleased to be working with the university and [other] colleges in this endeavour."

They include four new scholarships for students with outstanding academic potential from low or middle-income households, providing up to £13,500 per year, including a £3,000 tuition fee reduction.

The college is also introducing summer bursaries for students fitting that same criteria, to help fund internships and work placements, as well as maintenance subsidies of up to 50 per cent for accommodation and catering.

It will set up a new centre called the Christ Church Access Hub, to strengthen existing links with organisations that bridge the gap from disadvantaged areas into academia.

New staff members will be recruited at the hub to work with schools to help raise aspirations in such areas, including helping students to prepare applications to Oxford.

Christ Church already supports Blackbird Leys-based education charity IntoUniversity, which offers one-to-one mentoring support and workshops to youngsters across the estate and other parts of Oxfordshire.

Its chief executive Rachel Carr last year highlighted how 'deep-rooted problems' were to blame for the divide, including the mental barrier of being unlikely to aspire to attend university if you know very few people who have done so.