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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Cambridge University launches foundation year program for disadvantaged students

Sasha Mills reports on Cambridge's new foundation year program.

Cambridge University has announced a new foundation year program for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The program has 50 places available across 13 pilot colleges, and will have an offer of BBB rather than the university’s standard A*AA. 

Some of the groups that the Foundation Year aims to reach include “those who have been in care, those estranged from their families, and those who have missed significant periods of learning because of health issues. […] 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.”

Overall, the program will aim to support those who have faced disrupted education, and would be unable to make a successful application through the standard admissions process. The Foundation Year will be free for students, who will have one-year scholarships funded by a £5 million gift from the philanthropists Christina and Peter Dawson, money which is also being used to launch the program. 

Rather than focusing on a specific subject, students will participate in “an engaging and challenging multi-disciplinary curriculum in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences that will prepare them for further study in these subjects.” Students that successfully complete the program will be able to progress to these subjects at Cambridge without needing to re-apply. 

The foundation program will be assessed with a CertHE certificate, which is equivalent to the first year of a Bachelor’s degree. Students that fail to attain the certificate, or wish to apply to other universities, will be supported by the program in doing so. The University states that they anticipate that more subjects could be added in the future, including STEM subjects. 

Currently Lady Margaret Hall is the only Oxford college to offer a foundation year, which it launched in 2016. They offer admission to 9 subjects with offers ranging from AAB-BBB, including STEM, Social Sciences, and Humanities courses. The University of Oxford is currently in the process of developing a university-wide program. 

Professor Graham Virgo, Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education at The University of Cambridge, 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.”

Alan Rusbridger, Principal at Lady Margaret Hall, has been contacted for comment.

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