Over a quarter of the new cohort will come from disadvantaged backgrounds Louis Ashworth

Cambridge expects between 71 and 72% of the incoming cohort of Freshers, arriving at the University this coming October, to be state-educated.

This is a new record for the University after 70.6% of students welcomed to the University in 2020 were from state-educated backgrounds, itself a record-breaking figure at the time.

A-Level students received their grades earlier this week (10/08), which were assessed through Teacher-Assessed Grades. Prior to results day, warnings of oversubscription both at Cambridge and across the Higher-Education sector added to the stress of students awaiting results.

Earlier this year, Cambridge offer-holders were told that in the “unlikely” event of oversubscription, students may be required to switch College or defer their place, as has been reported at other Universities. The University’s statement today (13/08), however, confirmed that neither of these potential scenarios have come to fruition, with the University preparing to welcome just over 3,600 freshers in October. Nearly 3,900 were welcomed in 2020 amidst government U-turns relating to A-Level grades, whereas 3,528 were welcomed in 2019.

This announcement follows the news on A-level results day (10/08) that the University has accepted all offer-holders who met the conditions of their offers, as confirmed in this afternoon’s statement.

Among this number, over one quarter of students are from disadvantaged backgrounds, with over 230 eligible for Free School Meals and a further 49 having received offers through Adjustment, a UCAS process which allows students who initially miss out on an offer to gain a place through achieving high grades.

Among the students arriving at the University in October is Ayo Lambe, a 17-year old student from Glasgow, who will be studying Medicine. Explaining what drove him to apply for the subject, he said: “I have a younger brother with Down’s Syndrome, who I credit with being my main motivation for wanting to study medicine [...] helping my mum take care of him is something I enjoy doing.”

Twin brothers, Emmanuel and Ebenezer Boakye, from Hackney in East London have gained admission to Oxford and Cambridge respectively. Having grown up in a single-parent household, the brothers said that they were determined to “make their mum proud” with their achievements.

Funmi Sowole, a student from Ripon Grammar School in North Yorkshire, was admitted to read architecture at Cambridge. Sowole is an anti-racism activist who has volunteered with The Black Mind Initiative to help improve treatment for BME mental health patients. She looked back on the pandemic year to conclude: “I am super ready for this next chapter of my life. Whilst sixth form was definitely a struggle, especially in the midst of a pandemic, I learnt so much about myself and these are lessons I’ll be able to apply at university and whatever I do next.”

George Marshall, a student at Brampton Manor Academy in East London, will be taking up a place to read Economics at Cambridge. Looking back on over a year of Covid-related disruption, he admitted he “struggled to pay attention” during online lessons as “you regard your room as a place of comfort and rest”, but credited his school for “maintaining the level of learning”. Looking forward to Cambridge, he said: “I’m excited for the new environment because it’s a change and it’s the biggest change that I’m going to have come across in my life so far.”

Fifty-five students from Brampton Manor Academy received offers to study at Oxford or Cambridge this year, the first time a London-based state school received more Oxbridge offers than Eton College, which had 48.

Analysis of this year’s A-level results by Ofqual, the exam regulator, reveals that disadvantaged students are falling further behind their peers, despite a surge in top grades. In the analysis, Ofqual calculated the probability of students from different demographic groups getting an A or A*.


Mountain View

A-level results 2021: Record high as 91% of students secure first choice

The analysis found that the gap in attainment of the top grades between black and white students increased by 1.43% between 2019, when exams were last sat, and this year. The divide between students eligible for free school meals and their peers widened by 1.42% over the same period, and the gap between students with a background of high deprivation and their peers widened by 1.39%.

In its Access and Participation Plan 2020-21 to 2024-25, Cambridge committed to cutting the ratio of its students from the wealthiest parts of the country to those from the most deprived from around 14:1 to 6.7:1 by 2025. One of the ways the University aimed to achieve this improved ratio was by admitting students from “state-sector schools and colleges so that they comprise 69.1% of the total intake by 2024/25”. In order to improve access, the University also planned to “deliver an admissions process that is fair, transparent, and sufficiently sophisticated to measure ability and potential for academic success.”

The Cambridge Enhanced Bursary scheme also committed to providing £100 million in bursaries to financially disadvantaged students, beginning in October 2021. Professor Catherine Barnard, Senior Tutor at Trinity College, stated: “The enhanced bursary scheme is about removing barriers, and helping students fully participate in University life.”

Edit: heading changed from ‘number’ to ‘proportion’ to clarify that the percentage of state-educated students is the highest, whilst the number of students is not.