The statistics in this report refer to applications made from September 2018 onwards for admission to courses starting in October 2019 or by deferred entry to courses starting in October 2020. Applicants holding a deferred offer from previous admissions rounds are not included.
- Applications have increased by 5.3%, Offers have increased by 3% and acceptances by a 1.8% increase.
- The school type split:
- Maintained 68.7% (year before: 65.2%).
- Independent 31.3% (year before: 34.8%).
An increase in the maintained sector acceptance is a step in the right direction. However, state-educated students make up 91% of full-time UK university enrolments, quite a bit higher than 68.7%. Most importantly, the maintained and independent dichotomy is a simplistic one and access efforts must go a lot further than just that.
Breaking Maintained down
The highest source of applications comes from comprehensive schools (24%) which converts into 26% of offers but drops to 23.9% of the acceptance and success pool. This drop will be due to students choosing not to take up offers and not meeting offers. Grammar schools make up 11% of the applications, this converts to 15.5% of offers. This increases further with grammar making up 15.9% of the acceptance and success pool. This is a trend typical of previous admission cycles. Sixth form colleges make up 6.3% of the applications, which converts to 8% of the offers which then converts to 8.3% of the acceptances and success pool. Finally, within maintained there are FE and Tertiary Colleges which make up the smallest proportion of the applications (2.5%) which converts to exactly 2.5% of the offers but drops to 2.1% of the acceptance and success pool.
Independent and Overseas
Independent makes up 17% of the applications, receives 21.3% of the offers and increases to 22.9% of the acceptances and success pool. 3.9% of applications come from Other and Overseas, this converts to 2.5% of the Offers and makes up 2.6% of the acceptance and success pool.
The report also shows the success rates of each applicant pool. The highest success rate being Grammar school applicants (26.4%) with Independent being the next highest (24.5%). The success rate of comprehensive applicants has dropped compared to the previous admission cycle year from 18.6% to 18.1%. This highlights the need for sustained access initiatives which focus on attainment not just attitude change.
The proportion of applicants by region remains overall quite similar to the previous cycle with London making up over a quarter of the applications, then the South East (18.6%), Eastern (13.4%) and the North West (7.5). It’s a shame to see that the proportion of applications from the regions which typically send fewer applications (Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, East Midlands, West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humber) have decreased % wise compared to the previous admissions cycle. However, this trend does not follow for the North East (with a 0.1% increase in the proportion of applications).
The offer rates by region are quite similar to the application rates. The biggest differences between the two by region are with the South East offer rate being 1.3% higher than the application rate and the Eastern offer rate being 1.2% higher. Following that, both Scotland’s and the East Midlands’ offer rates are 0.8% lower than the application rates.
Regional disparities, particularly in terms of application and offer rates, illustrate the need for an improved the College Area Links Scheme model. An improved model could allocate groups of colleges and multiple School Liaison Officers to a region to ensure no region is left behind during periods of staff turnover.
If we exclude the Mature Colleges since the report says “The majority of applicants to the four Mature Colleges apply from institutions other than UK schools and colleges, or independently of a school or college” then the Colleges with the lowest intake from maintained overall % wise are…
Gonville and Caius with 55.4% and Robinson with 56.3% .
What are the differences between these College’s applicant rates from the maintained sector compared to their offer rates to the maintained sector?
- The maintained sector applicant rate to Gonville and Caius is 62.8% which converts to a 58.4% offer rate – a 4.4% decrease.
- The maintained sector applicant rate to Robinson is 67.8% which converts to 62.4% offer rate – a 5.4% decrease.
- Interestingly, Gonville and Caius and Robinson also had the lowest maintained intake in the previous admission cycle.
This covers the socio-geographic data that universities base some of their access targets on, including POLAR3 and IMD. The former measures progression to university by local area, whilst the latter covers deprivation by multiple characteristics by local area.
The overall trend of applicants being more likely to come from POLAR3 quintiles 5 and 4 remains. Nevertheless, compared to the previous admissions cycle there has been a slight increase in the applicant rate from the POLAR3 quintiles with the lowest rates of participation into Higher Education. However, applicants from POLAR3 quintile 5 (the quintile with the highest participation rate in Higher Education) have by far the highest application to offer conversion rate. Furthermore, POLAR3 quintile 5 applicants also have the highest success rate.
The % of applicants with the IMD flag has risen from 14.8% (previous cycle) to 16.3%. The conversion to offer rate has risen from 12.6% (previous cycle) to 14.2%. The success rate for this group has also risen slightly which is positive to see.
The lowest application rate is with Traveller students. This reflects the real absence of outreach work targeting this group by the University and also across the sector. As this group of applicants is so small, it is hard to infer a great deal from the offer and acceptance rates.
The other groups where we see the lowest application rates remain the same as the previous cycle being applicants who identify as Black or Black British – Caribbean (0.6%), Other Black background (0.2%), Mixed – White and Black Caribbean (0.7%), Mixed - White and Black African (0.6%) and Arab (0.8%). These rates have either increased slightly or remained the same as the previous year.
We also have seen increases in application rates from students who identify as Black or Black British – African of (from 3.4% to 4.3%), Asian or Asian British – Indian (from 6.1% to 6.3%), Asian or Asian British – Pakistani (from 2.2% to 2.4%) and Asian or Asian British – Bangladeshi (from 1.4% to 1.6%).
These increases are likely a result of the dedicated and growing efforts of targeted access initiatives across the collegiate university such as the African Caribbean Society’s events, the Islamic Society’s conferences, CUSU’s Camspire programme and JCR officers running BME open days. We must also credit the impact of organisations such as Target Oxbridge and the implementation of the Stormzy scholarship.
The offer rate is lower than the applicant rate for the majority of the above groups of applicants. This is not the case for applicants identifying as White, from whom the applicant rate is 65.1% and the offer rate is 70.6%. This highlights the urgent need for seriously improved unconscious bias training for admission interviewers. It must be regular, in-depth and attendance properly monitored. This year I lobbied the university on this matter and they have agreed to review this training with the goal to have redeveloped by 2021.
If we look at the acceptances and success rates (the intake) by ethnicity we can see that there is still a long way to go. Very unhelpfully, the Higher Education Student Statistics do not disaggregate Black, Asian or Mixed. However, by way of example, the Higher Education enrolment by students identifying as Black in 2019 was 7%. If we combine percentage acceptances and success rate (intake) for Black or Black British – Caribbean, Black or Black British – African and other Black background at Cambridge for 2019, we find 3.6%. Clearly, there is still a lot more work to be done here. Measures such as increasing funding into already highly successful initiatives, long term targeted academic mentoring and a commitment to institutional change to ensure the university is a genuinely safe and welcoming environment for BME students need to be taken. Additionally, national data on university admissions by ethnicity needs to be disaggregated further so we can truly understand disparities across the sector.
Application rates for students declaring a disability are quite similar compared to the previous cycle. However, slightly more applicants declared a Mental Health condition and a Specific learning difficulty in this cycle. The intake for applicants declaring a disability is 6.8%, which compares to the UK wide student enrolment of students declaring a disability of 14%. This demonstrates the need for improved support for disabled students such as by increasing funding for the Disability Resource Centre to ensure disabled applicants know that they will be supported at Cambridge and also the expansion of outreach programmes specifically for disabled students, which are not uncommon at other universities.
Compared to the previous admission cycle we have seen some increases in terms of application rates and intake for particular underrepresented groups which is a positive sign. However, there is still progress to be made. The success rate of comprehensive offer holders has decreased compared to the previous year. Disparities by region and POLAR3 grouping in offer and success rates remain prominent. The university has a lot of catching up to do with the wider sector in the application and offer rates in terms of disparities by ethnicity. It must also be acknowledged that even when the offer rate is equal or more than the application rate for underrepresented applicants, the work is not done. The reputation of Cambridge University needs to actively appeal to underrepresented groups in order to improve application rates and support and resources through access programmes must be provided so such applicants are not disadvantaged by the admissions process.
It must also be noted that this report does not include data on Free School Meal eligible applicants, which could give us a great deal more insight, since socioeconomic flags such as POLAR3 have been criticised for being too crude a tool in densely-populated areas. Finally, this data does not give us any insight into how applicants who identify and fall into multiple underrepresented groups fare throughout the admissions process, which is an issue we should not lose sight of.