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University of Cambridge offers foundation year places for disadvantaged students

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The University of Cambridge has offered its first ever foundation year places to talented students who have suffered economic or educational disadvantage.

The programme will provide a new route to undergraduate education at Cambridge for around 50 talented individuals every year who have demonstrated the potential to succeed in a degree in the arts, humanities, or social sciences.

The one-year, full-time residential course will welcome its first intake of students to Cambridge for the start of the new academic year, in October 2022. This year, offers have been made to 52 students.

A view of the chapel of King’s College, University of Cambridge
A view of the chapel of King’s College, University of Cambridge

Free and fully funded, the Cambridge foundation year is aimed at attracting an entirely new stream of applicants who have been prevented from reaching their full potential by their circumstances. This includes students with experience of the care system, estrangement from parents, low levels of household income, and schools with little history of sending students to highly selective universities. Their selection has taken into account their educational background and contextualised their achievements, recognising that circumstances and opportunity should not be a barrier to future academic success.

Dr Alex Pryce, foundation year course director, said: “This is a big day for those who are receiving their Cambridge foundation year offer, and a big day for the university. This is the first time in its history that Cambridge has run a pre-degree foundation year programme, aimed at talented applicants who might not otherwise consider applying to study here, and the number of applications we received shows that it is competitive and that there is a clear appetite for it. I’d like to congratulate everyone who has received an offer; we look forward to welcoming our first-ever Cambridge foundation year students to Cambridge very soon.”

An aerial view of University of Cambridge colleges
An aerial view of University of Cambridge colleges

The programme’s curriculum will prepare students for further study at Cambridge, or another top university.

Typical offers for the Cambridge foundation year - which is open to those ordinarily resident in the UK who meet specific eligibility criteria - require 120 UCAS tariff points, which is equivalent to BBB at A-level. The usual Cambridge offer is at least A*AA.

In total, there were 267 applications to the pilot foundation year programme, around five applications for every place, which is comparable to the number of applications the university normally receives for undergraduate study (six applications for every place). Cambridge foundation year applicants, including mature students, came from diverse backgrounds and from across the UK. They have received guidance during the process through a university online applicant support programme to help them make the strongest possible application.

A University of Cambridge college
A University of Cambridge college

A cornerstone gift from philanthropists Christina and Peter Dawson is funding the launch of the programme and full one-year scholarships for all students who are accepted. Students will study at one of the 13 Cambridge colleges participating in the pilot scheme, and will benefit from the community, support and academic stimulation this offers, which is intrinsic to the Cambridge experience.

As with all courses at Cambridge, there was a rigorous admissions process designed to help admit students who will thrive on the foundation year and be able to progress to a degree at Cambridge – including interviews and assessment. Students also have to prove their eligibility to receive the generous scholarship given to all students on the course.

On successful completion of the programme, Cambridge foundation year students will receive a recognised CertHE qualification from the University of Cambridge, and with suitable attainment can progress to degrees in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Cambridge without the need to apply to the University again in the usual admissions round.

In 2021, 72 per cent of Cambridge’s new undergraduate students were from state schools and more than a quarter were from the least advantaged backgrounds.

For more information visit foundationyear.cam.ac.uk.

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