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The Cambridge Foundation Year

The need to build new pathways into higher education for those facing exceptional disadvantage has never been so pressing.

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    Lloyd Mann
- 3 minute read

“The launch of the Cambridge Foundation Year will open up Cambridge to a new field of candidates and transform lives. Foundation Year Scholars will benefit from our personal approach to teaching and grow in confidence and understanding – and we will benefit from their talent and ideas. I cannot wait for them to begin,” says Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stephen J Toope.

What is the Cambridge Foundation Year?

The Foundation Year is a new scheme aimed at those who have the ability to study at Cambridge but who have been prevented from reaching their full potential. Scholars will have faced educational and social disadvantage, and are likely to include: care leavers; those who have missed significant learning due to health issues; students from low-income backgrounds and from schools who send few students to university; and students unable to access suitable qualifications. To apply, students must be ordinarily resident in the UK; the first students will start their studies in Michaelmas 2022.

Why now?

The need to build new pathways into higher education for those facing exceptional disadvantage has never been so pressing. The disruption of the past year has meant that students whose circumstances already presented huge challenges have been further disadvantaged by lack of time, technology and space to learn. Cambridge is committed to ensuring the most talented students, regardless of background, can attend – and scholarships are key to that vision. Indeed, the Vice-Chancellor – who was a recipient of a Commonwealth Scholarship – has seen the impact of student support first-hand. “Without a scholarship, I would not have been able to come to Cambridge – I simply didn’t have the money,” he recalls. “The scholarship gave me the freedom to focus on my work and enjoy student life to the full. When I think about it, the entire trajectory of my life would have been different.”

How will it work?

From 2022, the University will offer up to 50 places each year, with students joining one of 13 Colleges. After applying via UCAS, candidates will undergo interviews and assessments to identify their aptitude. A typical offer will be 120 UCAS Tariff points, equivalent to BBB at A-level – the standard Cambridge offer is at least A*AA. They will study a challenging and engaging multidisciplinary curriculum that will prepare them for undergraduate study in arts, humanities and social sciences subjects. If this pilot is successful, we hope to explore the inclusion of more subjects in the future. On completion of the programme, students will receive a recognised CertHE qualification. It is expected that most will then progress to undergraduate study; the University will also fully support those who move on to study elsewhere.

How will the additional year be funded?

The Foundation Year will be free to all scholars: the launch of the programme has been funded by a cornerstone £5m gift from philanthropists Christina and Peter Dawson (St Catharine’s 1974). Christina said: “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.”

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