Far from the impression given in your article on January 8, 2013, [“Britain’s Class Divide: Can Oxbridge Solve Its Privilege Problem?”], the University of Cambridge’s commitment to widening participation is wholehearted and of long standing.
This commitment stems from our desire to recruit the ablest and best-qualified students with the greatest academic potential from every background. It is a matter of social responsibility and enlightened self-interest, not a consequence of external targets or political pressure.
Our sustained and systematic effort over the past two decades has resulted in Cambridge admitting almost two-thirds of its undergraduate students from a broad range of state schools and colleges.
Our outreach work, on which we spend millions of pounds each year, takes place on a national scale. It includes the annual Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences, which are held at stadia across the UK, and the Area Links Scheme, founded in 2000, through which every state school and college in the UK has access to a named individual at a Cambridge College to advise and assist on aspiration-raising work and the Cambridge admissions process.
GEEMA, our Group to Encourage Ethnic Minority Applications, was set up in 1989 to ensure that talented UK black, Asian and minority ethnic students were not deterred from applying to the University of Cambridge. The number of such undergraduate students studying at Cambridge has increased considerably as a result of GEEMA’s work.
Outreach events hosted by the collegiate University include Challenge Days for younger pupils, one of the UK’s most extensive summer school programs, subject masterclasses for older students, events tailored to the needs of specific under-represented groups such as care leavers, and free teachers conferences.
Few other UK universities deliver widening participation activity on the same scale. Our goal is to ensure that anyone with the ability, passion and commitment to apply to Cambridge has a clear picture of what the University can offer them, and receives all the support necessary for them to best demonstrate their potential in our careful and rigorous admissions process.
Jon Beard, Director of Undergraduate Recruitment and Head of Cambridge Admissions Office
University of Cambridge