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What is the Cambridge Foundation Year?

The Cambridge Foundation Year is a new opportunity that offers a stepping stone to Cambridge for those who have experienced educational disadvantage. This innovative route is designed for a new field of candidates to help them realise their academic potential through a full-time, residential programme fully embedded in the Collegiate University. It is a fully-funded opportunity so comes at no cost to students.

On the Foundation Year you can expect an exciting and challenging academic curriculum in the arts, humanities and social sciences. This offers the best possible preparation for the rigours of a Cambridge degree course by broadening and deepening your knowledge and understanding and introducing you to the ways students learn at Cambridge. Foundation Year students will also benefit from being part of a College community and having full access to all the University’s societies and facilities to pursue your interests.

Finally, you will gain a nationally recognised Certificate of Higher Education on finishing the course and have the option to continue to degree courses at Cambridge.

Further information is available at cam.ac.uk/foundationyear

How do students apply?

Students apply via UCAS by the 15 January deadline. The application deadline is 15 January 2022 for Michaelmas 2022 entry.

Further information is available at cam.ac.uk/foundationyear

What are the academic entry requirements for the Foundation Year?

Typical offers require 120 UCAS Tariff Points (academic points only), which is equivalent to BBB. No specific subjects are required. The offer level – expressed in UCAS Tariff points rather than A- Level grades (or equivalent) to ensure flexibility – takes into account the disadvantage/disruption eligible students are likely to have experienced so far, the programme’s requirements, and the likelihood that the programme’s curriculum can bring these students to the required level of attainment.

We will accept a range of qualifications – from A-Levels, Scottish Highers, IBs, BTECs, Access Diplomas and more.

Further information is available at cam.ac.uk/foundationyear

Why will they receive a conditional offer?

As with our undergraduate offers, we expect a level of attainment to indicate the capacity to succeed on the course.

Is this the same as the Lady Margaret Hall Foundation Year at Oxford? How does it differ?

We have looked closely at a range of models for foundation-level provision, including the evaluation of the Lady Margaret Hall programme at Oxford and a wide range of other programmes at selective universities in the UK and Ireland. Our students will be living alongside peers as a member of a College at Cambridge, just as in the LMH pilot. However, there are key differences in our eligibility criteria, the degree options available to students after our programme, the curriculum itself which is inter-disciplinary, and in being able to offer a recognised Certificate of Higher Education as an award for completion.

Is this just for UK students or international students too?

Students will ordinarily be resident in the UK. Refugees are eligible for the Foundation Year, just as they are for other courses at Cambridge.

What does the course cost?

There are no tuition fees charged for the Foundation Year. Students admitted to the Foundation Year will receive a Scholarship to cover rent and other living costs. This will be equivalent to what they would receive as a maintenance loan from student finance (currently £9,250) and will be ‘topped up’ with an amount in line with the existing levels offered through the Cambridge Bursary Scheme (up to £3,500 depending on household income). In receiving this Scholarship, students will not need to take out student finance for the Foundation Year, but may need to apply for relevant student finance on continuation to a degree course and will receive guidance on options available to them, including government student finance and any Cambridge-specific bursaries for which they may be eligible.

Are students who have attended independent schools in the UK eligible?

Given the focus of the programme on educational disadvantage, applicants with a background of attendance at an independent school will normally be deselected.

Are students who have attended grammar schools in the UK eligible?

No school type is excluded, but candidates must meet eligibility criteria. Eligibility for the Foundation Year relies on individual-level indicators of educational disadvantage. The programme is aimed at an entirely new stream of applicants who have the ability to succeed at Cambridge, but have been prevented from reaching their full potential. This includes students who have been unable to access suitable qualifications, those from low income backgrounds, and those from schools which send few students to university.

Why aren’t all Colleges participating in the Foundation Year?

The Foundation Year at Cambridge is a pilot for 50 students per year, and in our design we have emphasised the importance of placing students in Colleges alongside a small group of their Foundation Year peers. There are practical and logistical reasons why some Colleges have elected not to take part at this time, and we hope to involve others as the programme continues and we are able to evaluate the efficacy.

What will students actually study?

Students will study a specially designed multi-disciplinary course that will focus on deeper learning skills and preparation for the academic demands of Higher Education. Students will have the ability to choose papers from across a number of streams and gain subject knowledge relevant to their future degree course as well as being introduced to new subjects and approaches.

They will be taught through lectures, seminars and supervisions, with typically 14-16 hours timetabled teaching hours each week.

The curriculum is offered across four streams and students will complete eight papers from the options available across these four streams. They will also complete an induction module which will introduce students to the ways of learning at Cambridge.

The four streams are:

  • Working with textual sources
  • Working with material sources
  • Working with languages
  • Working with data

How will students choose their curriculum streams?

Students will be introduced to the stream options during an induction week and will be guided by their teachers and Director of Studies in choosing options that interest them and keep appropriate subject pathways open. All students must complete the ‘Working with Textual Sources’ stream which is a vital skill for all the progression subjects, but from within the other options they will have free choice and will receive advice and guidance to support their choices.

How will students be assessed on course?

Students will be assessed on their knowledge and understanding, their ability to evaluate and interpret, and their communication of learning and arguments. Just as other undergraduates at Cambridge, they will complete both coursework and examinations throughout the year with the final assessments in the final weeks of the academic year. These vary in terms of format and length according to the subject of study, but all are designed to prepare students for further student. Some of these will not count towards the final grade but will be assessed to provide feedback on progress, while others will count towards the final grade.

How will students choose their degree/Tripos subject?

We expect many students will come to the Foundation Year with a progression subject in mind from their past study and their interests. However, students will not have to commit to any one subject until a few months into the programme. This allows them the chance to explore the range of options, including the subjects they may not have had access to at school. They will be supported by their teachers and Director of Studies in exploring the subjects on offer. In living in the College community, they will be able to speak with their peers about their studies as well as with academic staff. They will also have the opportunity to attend lectures to get a taster of the subjects in question should they wish. In their second term, they will indicate their preferences based on their understanding of what studying each subject would involve.

Is there a place on Tripos for all students who pass Foundation Year?

The University is committed to automatic progression providing FY students attain a high mark in their FY studies and will be working with the students to identify which course they have the aptitude for.

What happens to students who don’t make it to Tripos?

Students will be supported throughout the year. They will all be encouraged in making applications to other HEIs through UCAS to ensure they have other offers and have fully considered their options, and they will also receive pastoral and academic guidance throughout.

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