Current students at the new West Hub, where the Cambridge Foundation Year will be taught

More than 50 students from backgrounds of educational disadvantage have been offered a place on the University of Cambridge’s first-ever pre-degree foundation year.

The Cambridge Foundation Year is an innovative programme that aims to reach an entirely new field of Cambridge candidates, and to transform lives.

Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor

The landmark new programme will provide a new route to undergraduate education at Cambridge for around 50 talented individuals every year who have experienced educational and social disadvantage, and demonstrate 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. Following a rigorous admissions process, offers have been made to 52 students.

Free and fully funded, the Cambridge Foundation Year is aimed at engaging 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. 

The programme’s engaging and challenging 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 5 applications for every place, which is comparable to the number of applications the University normally receives for undergraduate study (6 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 Foundation Year Offer Holder Day will be held in June, giving students an opportunity to find out more about life at Cambridge and visit colleges, and a Residential Pre-Term Induction Week will take place in September.

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.” 

Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, said: “The Cambridge Foundation Year offers a fresh approach to widening participation at Cambridge. It is an innovative programme that aims to reach an entirely new field of Cambridge candidates, and to transform lives. After all the planning that has gone into creating the Cambridge Foundation Year, and the hard work of many people across the University and Colleges, I’m delighted that we have reached this important moment.”

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. They will also be taught at the new West Hub, on the University's emerging West Cambridge Innovation District.

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. 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.

Along with the Cambridge Foundation Year in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, the University last year launched the STEM SMART programme to support hundreds of UK state school students through their maths and science A-levels with enhanced learning, encouragement and mentoring. The two programmes build on widening participation progress made by the University in recent years, including the use of the August Reconsideration Pool to reconsider candidates who exceed expectations in examinations, and the launch of an enhanced bursary scheme.

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