Cambridge launches foundation year for students with BBB grades

New entry route aimed at ‘entirely new stream of applicants’ from disadvantaged backgrounds

January 13, 2021
Clare College, Cambridge
Source: iStock

The University of Cambridge has launched a foundation year that will allow disadvantaged students with the equivalent of three Bs at A level a route into undergraduate study at the elite institution.

The free foundation year will prepare students who “have the ability to succeed at Cambridge, but have been prevented from reaching their full potential by their circumstances” for further learning, as well as the chance to study at the university at undergraduate level after completing the year, the institution said.

The course is aimed at a “new stream of applicants” to Cambridge, such as those who have been in care, those whose learning has been disrupted and those from low-income families or disadvantaged schools. Students will need to have three Bs at A level or the equivalent of 120 Ucas points. Candidates typically need A*AA or better for entry to Cambridge.

Cambridge has often been accused of not doing enough to improve access for disadvantaged students, and the English higher education regulator, the Office for Students, has set strict targets for elite institutions to widen participation of the poorest students.  

Philanthropists Christina and Peter Dawson have provided £5 million to fund the launch of the programme and cover the full one-year scholarships for all those accepted.

The first cohort of 50 students will arrive in October 2022 and will study an “engaging and challenging multidisciplinary curriculum” in the arts, humanities and social sciences. The university said in a statement that science subjects may be added as an option in the future.

They will receive a CertHE qualification and if they meet the right attainment levels will be able to progress straight to an undergraduate degree at Cambridge. If they do not, or if they wish to attend another university, the university said that it would support them to find an alternative institution.

Students will also live and study at one of the 13 colleges participating in the pilot. They will be selected after applying directly through Ucas and undergoing interviews and assessments.

Graham Virgo, senior pro vice-chancellor for education at Cambridge, said that the university’s work “to explore new ways of widening access and closing the attainment gap caused by inequality is absolutely vital at a time when those the foundation year is aimed at – who already face exceptional disadvantage – are likely to have felt the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic disproportionately.

“Cambridge is committed to further diversifying its student body and welcoming all those who have the ability to achieve here, regardless of background,” he said.

Stephen Toope, Cambridge’s vice-chancellor, said that students will be “drawn from a range of backgrounds, the common link being that their circumstances have prevented them from realising their academic potential. They will benefit from our personal approach to teaching and grow in confidence and understanding, and we will benefit from them joining and further diversifying our community.”

anna.mckie@timeshighereducation.com

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