Cambridge has set new targets for intake from disadvantaged areas Kosala Bandara

The University of Cambridge has cleared another step towards being able to charge higher undergraduate fees from next year, after reaching an agreement with the Office for Fair Access (OFFA).

The agreement, published today, places Cambridge among 119 out of 121 higher education institutions in England in having pledged expanded access targets in order to gain clearance to charge higher fees.

A 0.5 per cent cut to Cambridge admissions targets for pupils from the areas of lowest participation was apparently dropped at the insistence of OFFA director, Les Ebdon. The cut, which would have reduced targets of lowest participation area intake from 13 per cent to 12.5 per cent, was proposed by the Cambridge Admissions Office (CAO) after the former target was deemed overambitious.

The completed agreement with OFFA now maintains the 13 per cent target from the year before. The University of Oxford has pledged to hit the same levels, which it described as an “appropriately stretching target”.

Cambridge will now be permitted to charge increased tuition fees of £9,250 a year from 2017, or potentially more in the future if it decides to comply with the second part of the Teaching Excellence Framework, which is currently being negotiated.

Cambridge’s OFFA agreement places an emphasis on continued bursary funding, as well as an increase of target numbers for students from areas with low socioeconomic ratings, and an expansion of goals for intake from state schools.

There is a heavy emphasis placed upon the benefit of summer schools in the agreement, with the University noting that levels of students who attend them have a high rate of going on to study at Cambridge, or otherwise participate in higher education. There will be a continued minimum of 600 summer school places on offer per year.

Cambridge has estimated that its total expenditure on access measures will come to £9.5 million for the year 2017/18.

“Our new agreement with OFFA reflects our strong commitment to widening participation, not just at Cambridge but in Higher Education as a whole,” a University spokesperson told Varsity.

“At the same time, it is important that we maintain high academic standards and we firmly believe in working towards access targets which reflect national patterns of attainment at A Level. We will continue to make this case in our discussions with OFFA.”

“This year, Cambridge has introduced a new Output Area Classification admissions target to give the University an even more nuanced approach to widening participation among underrepresented groups. Our target is to admit UK resident students from the least advantaged OAC groups so that they comprise 8.2 per cent of our total intake by 2019-20.”