Cambridge opens up extra places for disadvantaged students who perform better than
Cambridge University is opening up extra places for disadvantaged students who perform better than expected in their A-levels, in a bid to improve diversity.This summer the university will give out up to 100 additional places which will be earmarked for pupils who have either spent time in local authority care, or those with a combination of characteristics including attending a state school and living in a deprived household or area.It is the first time that Cambridge will take part in the Ucas “adjustment” system, where students who do better than expected in their A-levels are able to “trade up” for a better university place.While many Russell Group universities offer places through this system, Oxford and Cambridge have traditionally abstained from doing so on the basis that they fill all their places in advance.Dr Sam Lucy, director of admissions for the Cambridge Colleges, said that move is aimed at admitting more talented students from disadvantaged background who have already applied and had an interview, but “narrowly missed out” on an offer.“Students have to apply almost a year before they start their course, and some may be on an upward academic trajectory and not demonstrating their full academic potential at the point of interview,” she said.“Adjustment provides those students who go on to achieve highly with an opportunity to be reconsidered as soon as they have their final results, rather than having to make a reapplication the following year.Universities are under increasing pressure to increase the number of students they admit from poor backgrounds. Last year, 63.4 per cent of Cambridge’s undergraduate intake came from state schools Last year Russell Group universities spent £254 million on “outreach” activities, aimed at encouraging more students from disadvantaged background to apply, with a further £270 million due to be spent in the year ahead. Initiatives include bursaries, extra tutoring and support, and giving lower offers to those coming from state schools.Last year, 63.4 per cent of Cambridge’s undergraduate intake came from state schools, compared to 58.2 per cent at Oxford.The higher education watchdog has said that institutions must “eliminate” the gap in admissions between wealthier students and their less well-off peers within 20 years But the Office for Students has admitted that top universities will need to accept fewer middle class students in order to meet diversity targets.Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said that Cambridge’s announcement is a “step in the right direction”, adding that he welcomed any new initiatives aimed at closing the “stubbornly wide” gap between rich and poor students at top universities.”However, our research has shown that many poorer pupils with the grades to get into Oxford or Cambridge don’t apply, or have their grades under-predicted,” he added. “We also want to see universities like Cambridge giving poorer students a break by taking into account such factors as their school and parental background.”He said universities should all move to post-qualification applications, where students apply only after they have received their A-level results. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.