First Cambridge University pre-degree finishers begin undergraduate studies
The scheme is aimed at helping talented students who have experienced disadvantage.
More than 30 students who completed Cambridge University’s first ever pre-degree course are progressing to undergraduate study at the prestigious institution.
The Cambridge Foundation Year pre-degree course accepts students with an offer equivalent to BBB at A-Level, whereas the usual Cambridge offer is at least A*AA, and is fully funded.
It is aimed at talented students who have experienced disadvantage in their education and have not had the opportunity to realise their potential.
This includes students who have experienced the care system, estrangement from parents, low levels of household income, and schools with little history of sending students to highly selective universities.
Those who successfully complete the one-year residential course are able to join degree programmes in arts, humanities or social sciences at the top institution without having to apply again.
The first pre-degree course, which started last October, had a cohort of 47 students and 39 of them successfully completing the course in July this year, receiving a CertHE qualification from the university.
Six students paused their studies until the 2023 programme, and two withdrew.
Of the 39 students who completed the course, 31 are continuing at Cambridge as undergraduates and the rest have been supported to secure a place at another top UK university.
Dr Alex Pryce, Foundation Year Course Director, said: “It’s been incredible to watch our first foundation year students grow as individuals during their time at Cambridge so far.
“They’ve really made the most out of this new academic opportunity.
“In terms of confidence, many of the students are unrecognisable from when they arrived.
“We find them inquisitive in the classroom and their experiences bring us new insights.
“They’ve also made the most of life in their colleges and have engaged in all that Cambridge has to offer, including sports, arts and student politics.
“This is a competitive and demanding programme, and we have seen some really excellent outcomes.”
Cameron Welsh, 20, from the Scottish Borders, is to read history and politics at Cambridge’s Homerton College after completing the pre-degree course.
The aspiring journalist had missed four-and-a-half years of high school after a chronic illness diagnosed when he was 14.
“I never considered Cambridge as an option, but when I heard about the foundation year it seemed to suit someone who had experienced what I had, and it was just too good an opportunity not to go for,” he said.
“In particular I’ve loved the supervisions on the foundation year; I’ve enjoyed being challenged and challenging others’ ideas.
“It’s an experience I wouldn’t get anywhere else in the same way, and my critical analysis and argument forming skills have really developed.
“Starting my Cambridge degree hasn’t really sunk in yet, but I can’t wait.
“I’m looking forward to the work and meeting more new people.”
Kerrie Portman, from the London area, was homeless when she applied for a place on the pre-degree course after first completing an Access to HE Diploma.
The 24-year-old, who is autistic and a care-leaver, successfully completed the course and will read human, social, and political science at Cambridge’s Girton College.
She said the pre-degree course had been “one of the best experiences of my life”.
“There can be negative stereotyping around autism and care-leavers, so I feel like I’m helping through my participation,” she said.
“I would encourage people to apply for the foundation year, especially anyone worried that it might not be for them, or that they might be treated differently because of their background or experiences.
“People have a fixed idea of what a typical Cambridge student is like, and really there’s no such thing.”
Cambridge Foundation Year students receive full one-year scholarships – after a gift from philanthropists Christina and Peter Dawson funded the launch of the programme – and study at Cambridge colleges.
A total of 48 students are in the second cohort of the pre-degree course starting this year.
They will be supported by the Cambridge Foundation Year Society, created by the programme’s first students, and by university departments and colleges.