Cambridge to introduce foundation year for ‘educationally disadvantaged’ students

When will the middle-class bubble be punctured?


Is the middle- class, over-priviledged, highly-educated Cambridge bubble about to meet the real world? This is what Vice- Chancellor Stephen Toope hopes to achieve, commenting that :

'We know we need to do more to attract those students who have the potential to study here, but have not been applying to us'.

In a recent statement, he describes a new initiative to support 'pupils who have experienced educational disadvantage'. From 2020 onwards, students will be able to take a foundation year, which will aim to make up for any educational gaps that otherwise would leave students from non-traditional Oxbridge backgrounds at a disadvantage against their more fortunate peers.

Can you hear the enticing Canadian accent?

The scheme will target BME students and pupils coming from under-achieving state school backgrounds. It follows a similar scheme launched by Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford; one student on this course said that it 'changed her life for the better'. This course followed a model established by Trinity College, Dublin.

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Cambridge will imitate LMH's programme

Running this foundation year was considered preferable to lowering grade boundaries, which is currently an occasional practise in specific cases (as described in this Guardian article). Cambridge's school liasons work targets educationally low-performing areas, with each college's access efforts targeted to a particular region, London borough, or city.

Cambridge has recently improved application statistics, and figures attest to the highest number of state school pupils: a record high of 62.5% of Cambridge students now come from state school backgrounds. However, this is far from the 93% of British state school attendees, and does not account for Grammar schools or extremely high performing state schools.

It is not yet clear how individual faculties or colleges will implement their foundation year programmes, or what their entry requirements will be.

Will the initiative counter social inequality at Oxbridge? Only time will tell.