More than 50 students from disadvantaged backgrounds have been offered places on Cambridge University’s first-ever pre-degree course.
Those who successfully complete the one-year residential course will be able to join degree programmes in arts, humanities or social sciences at the top institution without having to apply again.
Cambridge said the programme is part of its bid to increase diversity and encourage students who may not have been able to reach their academic potential due to their circumstances to study at the university.
This includes those who have been in the care system, those who have been estranged from their parents; are from low-income households or have attended schools which have traditionally not sent many students to top universities.
In total, 52 students have been offered fully-funded places for the scheme, after undergoing a “rigorous” application process, including interviews and assessments, the university said.
The average offer for successful applicants was three B grades at A-level or equivalent, compared with the university’s usual offer of at least A*AA or equivalent.
Professor Stephen Toope, Cambridge University’s vice-chancellor, 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.”
Students who do not want to continue studying at Cambridge after the foundation year, or do not reach the required level of achievement will be supported to find places at other institutions.
The university received an average of five applications for every place on the foundation year, compared with an average of six applications per place on undergraduate courses.
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.”
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.