The principal aim of the Admissions Policy of the Colleges of the University of Cambridge is to offer admission to students of the highest intellectual potential, irrespective of social, racial, religious and financial* considerations.
Two further aims are:
- Aspiration: to encourage applications from groups that are, at present, under-represented in Cambridge
- Fairness: to ensure that each applicant is individually assessed, without partiality or bias, in accordance with the policy on Equal Opportunities, and to ensure that, as far as possible, an applicant’s chance of admission to Cambridge does not depend on choice of College
Once students are admitted, we ensure that they are given the academic, personal and, where appropriate, financial support necessary for successful completion of their course at Cambridge.
The University’s contract with the Higher Education Funding Council for England means that there is, in effect, an upper limit on the number of international students we can admit. This constraint makes the competition for places particularly fierce among international applicants.
Our widening participation strategy within the UK has for a number of years focussed on trying to ensure that students with the ability to succeed at Cambridge are not deterred from applying by any of the myths and misconceptions that continue to surround the University. Other activities within our diverse and extensive portfolio of outreach projects seek to introduce students to the range of degree courses we offer and to support and enrich the study of subjects at school/college.
Once students have applied then the principle detailed above takes absolute precedence. We will not introduce targets or quotas for people from specific backgrounds as we feel very strongly that applicants should be admitted on academic merit and potential to succeed in their chosen course.
Detailed selection criteria vary from subject to subject but in all we are looking for:
- academic ability and potential;
- motivation and suitability for the chosen course;
- commitment and self-discipline.
Every applicant is considered individually in an holistic assessment using all the information available to us:
- their academic record, including GCSE and AS (or equivalent) grades and marks and A Level (or equivalent) grades or predictions†, this record being considered in the context of the quality (but not type) of schools/colleges at which it was achieved;
- the school/college reference;
- the personal statement;
- submitted work, where requested;
- test results, where a written test forms part of the assessment;
- performance at interview, if interviewed.
Ultimately, all admissions decisions are based on academic criteria, and excellence in an extra-curricular activity will never ‘compensate’ for lower academic potential.
In each subject we have moderation procedures that enable Colleges to compare the quality of their own applicants with those to other Colleges before deciding who will receive an offer, and our pool system provides the opportunity for applicants squeezed out by the competition at one College to receive an offer from another as part of these procedures.
To try to ensure that all applicants and their advisers have access to up-to-date and factually correct information, we provide exhaustive information about all aspects of our admissions procedures through our extensive range of publications and our website.
Our policy with regard to recruitment of overseas students is detailed in the separate International Undergraduate Admissions statement.
* Please note that financial considerations and support apply only to UK applicants. Fees are higher for international students (those from outside the EU), and such students must be able to demonstrate that they can finance themselves for their entire course.
† Please note that the University recognises that making accurate A* predictions will be difficult for schools/colleges in the early years of this new A Level grade. As such, we will not be placing any weight on whether or not an A* grade is predicted by referees.