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Press Release

Girton College will welcome Cambridge Foundation Year students as part of landmark programme to ‘transform lives’ by supporting an even broader range of applicants to realise their potential

graphic image showing students walking and the Cambridge foundation year logo

Girton College is delighted to be among the first to host students for the Cambridge Foundation Year – an innovative new programme offering talented students from backgrounds of educational and social disadvantage a new route to undergraduate study. 

The one-year course – aimed at an entirely new stream of applicants who have the ability to succeed at Cambridge, but who have been prevented from reaching their full potential by their circumstances – will prepare students for further learning and offer them the chance to progress straight to an undergraduate degree at Cambridge. Its launch - amid the COVID-19 pandemic – is testimony to the University’s, and to Girton’s determination to forge new pathways into higher education for those groups who otherwise risk missing out because they already face exceptional disadvantage. 

The Foundation Year is free to students; a cornerstone £5 million gift from philanthropists Christina and Peter Dawson will fund the launch of the programme and the full one-year scholarships awarded to all students who are accepted. 

Those who have been in Care, those estranged from their families, and those who have missed significant periods of learning because of health issues are among the groups the Foundation Year aims to reach. These are students whose education has been disrupted and are therefore unlikely otherwise to be able to make a competitive application to undergraduate study at Cambridge through the University’s standard admissions process. Other possible candidates include students who have been unable to access suitable qualifications, those from low income backgrounds, and those from schools which send few students to university. 

Up to 50 Foundation Year students will join the University in October 2022, after applying directly through UCAS by the January 2022 deadline, and undergoing interviews and assessments to identify their aptitude. Typical offers will require 120 UCAS Tariff Points, which is equivalent to BBB at A-Level. The usual offer for Cambridge students is at least A*AA. 

Girton is one of the 13 Cambridge colleges participating in the pilot scheme. A College base will ensure that every Foundation Year student will benefit from the community, support and academic stimulation that is intrinsic to College life and an essential part of the Cambridge experience. During the year students will enjoy an engaging and challenging multi-disciplinary curriculum in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences that will prepare them for further study in these subjects. It is anticipated that as the Foundation Year programme develops, more subjects could be added, for example STEM subjects. 

On successful completion of the programme, students will receive a recognised CertHE qualification from the University of Cambridge, and with suitable attainment can progress to degrees in Arts, Humanities and Social Science subjects at Cambridge without the need to apply to the University again. Students will also be supported during the programme in finding alternative university places if they do not wish to continue to undergraduate study at Cambridge, or do not meet the required level of attainment. 

Girton College’s Senior Tutor, Dr Sandra Fulton said:

“Girton is a college which champions inclusivity and diversity. We are delighted to be part of this scheme to help more students who have suffered disadvantage during their schooling be able to join our community.”

The Mistress of Girton College, Professor Susan J Smith said:

“Girton was founded for inclusion and has a history of dismantling barriers to the life-changing potential of higher education. We are well-aware that the wider we open our doors, the richer our community will be, and we feel privileged to be part of the inaugural year of the scheme.”

Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor, said:

“The launch of the Cambridge Foundation Year will open up Cambridge to a new field of candidates and transform lives. We are hugely grateful that the generosity of the Foundation Year programme’s founding benefactors, Christina and Peter Dawson, has provided the means so that students can take up this opportunity regardless of their financial situation. 

Students will be drawn from a range of backgrounds, the common link being that their circumstances have prevented them from realising their academic potential. They will benefit from our personal approach to teaching and grow in confidence and understanding, and we will benefit from them joining and further diversifying our community.” 

Christina Dawson said:

“I was absolutely delighted when I first heard that Cambridge was launching a Foundation Year, and am so pleased that it has not been held back by global events. Indeed, the need for this Foundation Year has become ever clearer as the pandemic has exacerbated inequities and disadvantages. Peter and I are firmly committed to doing whatever we can to support Cambridge in addressing educational disadvantage in wider society, and are thrilled to have enabled the launch of such a ground-breaking and impactful programme.” 

The programme builds on widening participation progress made by the University in recent years, including the use of UCAS Adjustment to reconsider candidates who exceed expectations in examinations. It is expected that the Foundation Year will further increase the proportion of Cambridge students from state schools, low progression postcodes and from areas of socio- economic deprivation. 

Further information on applying to the Foundation Year Programme and the programme’s course structure and content may be found on the Foundation Year Website:

Notes for Editors

For further information, contact:

Stephen Bevan
News Communications Manager 
Office of External Affairs and Communications, 
University of Cambridge. 
M. +44 (0) 7845 052887