University of Cambridge to offer free foundation year to tackle social disadvantage
A foundation year offering talented students from backgrounds of educational and social disadvantage a new route to undergraduate study has been launched by the University of Cambridge today (January 13).
The one-year course – aimed at applicants who have the ability to succeed at Cambridge, but have been prevented from reaching their full potential by their circumstances – will prepare students for further learning and offer them the chance to progress directly to an undergraduate degree at Cambridge.
A £5million philanthropic gift from Christina and Peter Dawson will fund the course launch and full scholarships, making it free to students.
The programme aims to reach those who have been in care, estranged from their families, and those who have missed significant periods of learning because of health issues and are unlikely otherwise to make a competitive application to undergraduate study at Cambridge through the standard admissions process. Other possible candidates include students who have been unable to access suitable qualifications, those from low-income backgrounds or from schools which send few students to university.
Up to 50 foundation year students will arrive in Cambridge in the programme’s first intake in October 2022, after applying directly through UCAS by the January 2022 deadline, and undergoing interviews and assessments to identify their aptitude. Typical offers will require 120 UCAS Tariff Points, which is equivalent to BBB at A-level. The usual Cambridge offer is at least A*AA.
The students will study at one of the 13 Cambridge colleges participating in the pilot scheme, and will benefit from the community and academic support this offers. They will study a multi-disciplinary curriculum in the arts, humanities and social sciences. It is anticipated that as the foundation year programme develops, more subjects could be added, such as STEM subjects.
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 again. Students will also be supported during the programme in finding alternative university places if they do not wish to continue to undergraduate study at Cambridge, or do not meet the required level of attainment.
Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor, said: “The launch of the Cambridge Foundation Year will open up Cambridge to a new field of candidates and transform lives. We are hugely grateful that the generosity of the programme’s founding benefactors, Christina and Peter Dawson, has provided the means so that students can take up this opportunity regardless of their financial situation.
“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.”
Professor Graham Virgo, Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, said: “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.”
Christina and Peter Dawson are a British couple who are based in California. Christina has extensive experience in volunteer and leadership roles and is an honorary fellow of St Catharine’s College, where Peter studied natural sciences and psychology.
Christina said: “I was absolutely delighted when I first heard that Cambridge was launching a foundation year, and am so pleased that it has not been held back by global events. Indeed, the need for this has become ever clearer as the pandemic has exacerbated inequities and disadvantages. Peter and I are firmly committed to doing whatever we can to support Cambridge in addressing educational disadvantage in wider society, and are thrilled to have enabled the launch of such a ground-breaking and impactful programme.”
It is expected that the foundation year will further increase the proportion of Cambridge students from state schools, low progression postcodes and from areas of socio-economic deprivation.