Oxford University will offer places with lower grades to students from disadvantaged backgrounds for the first time in its 900-year history.The radical scheme marks a “sea change” in the university’s admissions process. However, it comes amid criticism from middle-class Oxford rejects and headteachers that private school students are being “squeezed out” by the University’s current diversity drive.From 2020, 250 state school students will receive free tuition and accommodation as part of a multi-million-pound recruitment bid for disadvantaged students.However, 50 students in the new intake – which will include refugees and young carers – will be eligible to receive offers “made on the basis of lower contextual A-level grades, rather than the university’s standard offers”. Last year Labour MP David Lammy became embroiled in a Twitter row with Oxford University after he dubbed the institution “a bastion of white, middle class, southern privilege”. It came following data that revealed that eight of the 29 colleges included in a report accepted fewer than three black applicants in the past three years.In 2017, Oxford admitted more pupils from the private Westminster School (49), than it did black students (48).Earlier this month The Telegraph reported that black students were failing to apply for the University of Cambridge, according to Professor Graham Virgo, its pro-vice-chancellor, because there is a lack of Afro-Caribbean hairdressers in the city.A number of top universities have launched “contextual offer” schemes in recent years, where pupils from poor backgrounds or lower-performing state schools can gain entry with lower grades.Bristol University launched a scheme in 2016 whereby courses that may typically require top grades at A-level will be offered to “high potential” pupils from local schools with grades as low as C.From September, students on an “access” scheme at University College London will also be made offers of up to two grades below what is ordinarily required.However, the diversity drive has sparked frustration among some in the education sector. Dr Anthony Wallersteiner, head of the £36,000-a-year Stowe School in Buckinghamshire, said that the number of privately-educated children getting places at Oxbridge had been “driven down” as part of efforts to boost diversity. Typical offers from the university usually range between A*A*A and AAA depending on the subject. However, those studying under the new scheme could be accepted into the university with offers as low as ABB. This marks the first time under the current admissions system that lower grades will be accepted from some students.In an announcement today, the University revealed that it will launch two new programmes, entitled Opportunity Oxford and Foundation Oxford, in a bid to boost diversity. Both schemes will be fully funded by the university. However, The Telegraph understands that education bosses will look into donor funding in the coming months. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Foundation Oxford will be open to 50 students with “high academic potential” who have personally experienced particularly severe disadvantage or educational disruption – as well as refugees and carers – and will last for a year. Students will have to pass the ‘Foundation’ year before being admitted to their undergraduate course.Meanwhile, Opportunity Oxford will run for two weeks and is aimed at 200 students from more disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds who are on track for the required grades, but who “need additional support to transition successfully from school to Oxford”.By 2023 the university aims for 25 per cent of its intake to hail from the UK’s most under-represented backgrounds, up from the 15 per cent currently. He recently told The Times that private-school parents claimed that their children were being “edged out” by social engineering.Both of Oxford University’s new schemes are tailored for bright but low-income pupils who are offered a place but struggle to meet the final requirements, or need help making the transition.Participants will all be based at Oxford colleges before they continue on to the undergraduate degree for which they were admitted. Prof Louise Richardson, vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford, said that the new recruitment drive marks “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,” she said.Universities are coming under increasing pressure from the higher education regulator to admit more students from ethnic minorities and disadvantaged backgrounds.