Class Act launches open letter in support of students who missed Cambridge offers

The open letter has over 2,700 signatures so far

Class Act, the Cambridge SU campaign, have launched an open letter calling on the University of Cambridge and its constituent colleges to reconsider their decisions to reject offer-holders on the basis of their A level results, with over 2,700 signatures at the time of publishing.

Whilst yesterday was a celebration for many, a large number of offer-holders faced disappointment, receiving results which were below those they expected, or that had been predicted for them by their school or college, and consequently missing their Cambridge offers. The coronavirus pandemic has meant that A level students were unable to sit exams, and instead had results calculated for them, which led in some cases to grades being marked down. This reflects a national picture, where almost 40% of grades have been downgraded, which has disproportionately affected students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds. 

The open letter urges the University and Colleges to “seriously reconsider cases where students with contextual flags identified on their application, such as coming from the state sector or areas with low university progression rates, have had their offers withdrawn. In this case, all offers should be honoured on the basis of predicted results of centre assessed grades. If either of the two meets or exceeds the terms of the offer then the offer holder should be accepted. In the event of exceeding capacity, all students should be able to choose to study remotely should they wish.”

This comes shortly after Worcester College, Oxford released a statement that they had decided to admit all UK offer-holders, irrespective of the grades they received.

Worcester College Oxford, who have announced that they will honour all offers despite missed grades (credit: Emily Long)

The open letter goes on to highlight that “the way in which results have been calculated this year has led to massive discrepancies between the grades predicted by many teachers, and the actual grades students have received. This will be disproportionately in schools and areas with large class sizes, lower progression to higher education and higher levels of deprivation (as indicated by POLAR data).” 

The open letter notes that “current grades have been calculated on the basis of historical gradings and rankings, such as school performance. They provide no new information about a candidate and their academic abilities”. The algorithm used by the Department of Education used a statistical approach to results, in a way that ignores the individuals behind them and discredits their hard work.”

In a statement released today, the University has stated that “The University of Cambridge is committed to widening participation and has made significant progress in ensuring its student population is representative of wider society” and that they “have been as flexible as we can in our admissions process, within the government restrictions on student numbers.” 

However, the open letter includes many examples of students from disadvantaged backgrounds who have been let down by both the Government and the University.  One student reports that they were “downgraded from A*AA to ABB” and hence lost their offer for Cambridge, as well as their insurance, “all because of my school and postcode.”

Another offer-holder reports that they were “predicted A*A*A*.  [From a ] Exceptionally low performing school. No one had ever achieved a Cambridge offer before in my sixth form. Performed at A*A*A consistently. Today [I received] A*AB.[I] Dropped two grades in Sociology. Denied Cambridge place,” despite the fact they “didn’t drop a single mark in Sociology in year 12 and achieved 96% in Paper One and 92% in Paper two in my last set of mocks that I did in November.”

Speaking to the Tab Cambridge, Alex Roberts, the Vice-President of Class Act said: “The way the results have been calculated this year (moderated based upon schools’ past performance) has led to cases where there are large discrepancies between the grades predicted by teachers, and the actual grades students have received. This will undoubtedly be disproportionately in schools and areas with large class sizes, lower progression to higher education and higher levels of deprivation.

“Appeals are costly, and especially in deprived areas cannot be funded by the schools, leading to the risk that students would have to take on these costs personally. Reserving offers until next year to allow students to sit exams will not be feasible for many, unable to afford the costs of living at home for another year.”

“I strongly encourage the colleges and University to very seriously consider cases where students from Widening Participation backgrounds have been moderated down from their predicted grades in their true context. These students deserve to be here, the fact that they obtained an offer in the first place shows that. We cannot allow them to become victims to circumstance.”

A link to the full Open letter can be found here, whilst a google form to add your name can be found here.