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Cambridge to offer new foundation course for disadvantaged students

The University of Cambridge has offered foundation year places to talented students who have suffered economic or educational disadvantages.

The institution usually requires A*AA at A-level to access degree courses, but the one-year foundation course offers places to those who attain BBB.

Around 267 students applied for the programme and 52 offers were made. This first intake of students will begin study in October 2022.

The qualification will take the form of an interdisciplinary course designed to prepare students for a degree in the arts, humanities and social sciences, although it does not currently cover STEM subjects. If students do well on the course, they will be able to begin a degree at Cambridge without reapplying.

If students do not reach the required standard, or wish to study elsewhere on completion of the foundation year, Cambridge will support them in finding places at other institutions.

The course is fully-funded and financed by a £5 million donation from Cambridge alumni.

“This is the first time in its history that Cambridge has run a foundation year programme, aimed at talented applicants who might not otherwise consider applying to study here…”

–Dr Alex Pryce

The university has said the course is designed to engage students “who have been prevented from reaching their full potential by their circumstances”. Included in the first cohort are individuals who have had experience of the care system, foster children, those with low levels of household income, and schools that don’t have a track-record of getting their students into the best universities. The selection process “contextualised” their achievements, weighting them to take account for disadvantages over which the student had little control.

It is part of the university’s drive to increase diversity. In 2021, more than a quarter of new undergraduate students were from the least advantaged backgrounds, and 72% of Cambridge’s new undergraduate students were from state schools.

Dr Alex Pryce, director of the course, said: “This is the first time in its history that Cambridge has run a 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.”

Prof Stephen Toope, the university’s vice-chancellor, said: “It is an innovative programme that aims to reach an entirely new field of Cambridge candidates, and to transform lives.”

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