Cambridge to offer second chance to disadvantaged students through UCAS Adjustment

University of Cambridge
by Hayley Pearce | 6 Mar 2019

Up to 100 places will be available under the university's new scheme

The University of Cambridge will give certain students the opportunity to be reconsidered for a place, in a bid to increase student diversity.

In a first for the university, it will allow students from underrepresented backgrounds who were rejected post-interview but who exceed the terms of their firm choice to re-apply through UCAS Adjustment.

UCAS Adjustment opens on A-level results day to give students who do better than expected in their exams to secure a place at a different institution with higher grade requirements.

Every year, more than 14,000 students who apply to Cambridge are not made an offer. This year, the university says, up to 100 places will be available under its new scheme to give some of these students a second chance.

Empty spaces

A representative from Murray Edwards Admissions, answering questions from TSR members in a thread called Cambridge Adjustment 2019 Entry, said: “Every year the collegiate university ends up with some empty spaces and this will help to rectify that. It may also change behaviour in the Summer Pool and with missed offers but it's too early to say how that behaviour might manifest itself.

“Everyone who may be eligible has been sent the email - at this point we haven't taken into account the strength of the application, though that will, of course, be a factor when deciding on whether to make an Adjustment offer in August.”

He added: “If you exceed the conditions of your firm choice and there are places available on your course then you’ll be able to register on results day. Keep an eye on the website for information about which courses may have places, it will be updated in results week. We’re not allowed to contact candidates on results day to ask them to register for Adjustment.”

Positive impact

Dr Sam Lucy, director of admissions at Cambridge, said: “Students have to apply almost a year before they start their course, and some may be on an upward academic trajectory and not demonstrating their full academic potential at the point of interview.

 “Adjustment provides those students who go on to achieve highly with an opportunity to be reconsidered as soon as they have their final results, rather than having to make a reapplication the following year. We hope this will have a positive impact, in enabling us to admit talented students from underrepresented groups who narrowly miss out in the first round.”

Cambridge’s Adjustment scheme will only be available to those who applied and were interviewed during the main application cycle, which begins in October and ends with offers in January. Candidates will only be able to apply for their original subject choice, and have to meet specific widening participation criteria in order to be considered.

Wide access gap

Sir Peter Lampl, founder of the Sutton Trust which campaigns for greater social mobility through education, said the move is a positive step: “Closing the stubbornly wide access gap at our best universities is vital so it is good to see Cambridge looking to new solutions to tackle the problem.”

Research shows that disadvantaged but high-achieving pupils who achieve the grades required for Oxbridge often either do not apply or have their grades underpredicted.

In the Guardian, education correspondent Sally Weale wrote: “Leading UK universities which are still dominated by white, wealthy students have come under increasing pressure from the government to attract young people from hard-to-reach backgrounds where they may be the first in their family to consider university.

“Last year Cambridge launched a £500m fundraising campaign to pay for a new ‘transition programme’ to encourage and support applications from talented students from disadvantaged backgrounds who might otherwise not get a place.”

‘Well done, Cambridge!’

In the Cambridge Adjustment 2019 Entry thread, ParentSaraG said: “I nearly choked on my metaphorical cornflakes when I heard this on the radio this morning!

“Firstly, congratulations to Cambridge for attempting this. Will the other place follow, one wonders?

“Cambridge admissions people have acknowledged for some time that they get it wrong with some applicants. And they rightly want to do better on diversity, political pressure not withstanding. So this allows them to have one last look at some applicants rejected in January, perhaps wrongly. These applicants offer the priceless evidence of actual A-level (or equivalent) results; I reckon this 'new' part of the application file will prove very powerful for some candidates.”

“Well done, Cambridge!” she added.

But Kdai, one of the Cambridge applicants to receive the email about the Adjustment opportunity, said: “Just when I find closure towards rejection, Cambridge come back and dangle the tiniest prospect of admission before me in my email inbox.”

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