Students from disadvantaged backgrounds offered chance to study at University of Cambridge

Last year's graduation ceremony at the University of Cambridge.
Last year's graduation ceremony at the University of Cambridge. Credit: PA

More than 50 students from disadvantaged backgrounds have been given the chance to study at Cambridge University after the institution lowered its famously strict entry requirements.

Minimum grades of A*AA at A-Level are normally needed to study at the university, but three B grades are now being accepted for a special new one-year foundation course.

It is the university's first ever pre-degree course.

In total, 52 students have been offered fully-funded places for the scheme, after undergoing a "rigorous" application process - including interviews and assessments.

The university said the course is part of its pledge to increase diversity and also to give an opportunity to students who may not have been able to reach their academic potential due to their circumstances.

The course will support people from a wide range of backgrounds, including those who have been in the care system or may have come from low-income households.

"The Cambridge Foundation Year offers a fresh approach to widening participation at Cambridge," Professor Stephen Toope, Cambridge University's vice-chancellor, said.

"It is an innovative programme that aims to reach an entirely new field of Cambridge candidates, and to transform lives.

"After all the planning that has gone into creating the Cambridge Foundation Year, and the hard work of many people across the university and colleges, I'm delighted that we have reached this important moment."

The first intake of students will begin in October.

If they complete the course, they will then either be offered the opportunity to study for a full degree at the university or given help to find a place at another institution.

More than a quarter of new undergraduate students were from the least advantaged backgrounds last year and 72% of Cambridge's new undergraduate students were from state schools.

Dr Alex Pryce, foundation year course director, said: "This is the first time in its history that Cambridge has run a pre-degree foundation year programme, aimed at talented applicants who might not otherwise consider applying to study here, and the number of applications we received shows that it is competitive and that there is a clear appetite for it."