The one-year course – aimed at an entirely new stream of 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 straight to an undergraduate degree at Cambridge.
Its launch - amid the COVID-19 pandemic - comes at a time when the University’s work to forge new pathways into higher education for those groups already facing exceptional disadvantage has never been more pressing.It is free to students; a cornerstone £5 million gift from philanthropists Christina and Peter Dawson will fund the launch of the programme and full one-year scholarships for all students who are accepted.
Reaching students of educational and social disadvantage
Those who have been in care, those estranged from their families, and those who have missed significant periods of learning because of health issues are among the groups the Foundation Year aims to reach – students whose education has been disrupted and are therefore unlikely otherwise to be able to make a competitive application to undergraduate study at Cambridge through the University’s standard admissions process.
Other possible candidates include students who have been unable to access suitable qualifications, those from low income backgrounds, and those 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 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, support and academic stimulation this offers, which is intrinsic to the Cambridge experience. They will study an engaging and challenging multi-disciplinary curriculum in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences that will prepare them for further study in these subjects. It is anticipated that as the Foundation Year programme develops, more subjects could be added, for example STEM subjects.
On successful completion of the programme, 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. 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 Jane Clarke, Wolfson College President, said: "I am delighted at the launch of Cambridge University's Foundation Year. At Wolfson College, we are proud of our tradition of offering opportunities to mature students to return to learning. The new Foundation Year will open the door to those whose preparation for University has been disrupted through no fault of their own. It will prepare these students to take advantage of all that a university education can offer, and give them the confidence to thrive in a supportive academic environment. Wolfson has been an enthusiastic partner with the University from the start of this project, and we look forward to welcoming our first Foundation Year students in October 2022."
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 Foundation Year 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.”
Christina Dawson 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 Foundation Year 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.”
The programme builds on widening participation progress made by the University in recent years, including the use of UCAS Adjustment to reconsider candidates who exceed expectations in examinations. 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.
Support the initiative
You can support the University and the College's programmes to widen participation from students from backgrounds of educational and social disadvantage in the following ways.
- Make a gift to the Foundation Year programme
- Contribute to the College's Widening Participation fund through our Annual Giving campaign
- Read about our new BME MPhil Award
To discuss a major gift to support our Widening Participation initiative or the Foundation Year programme, please contact our Development Director.