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The successful programme, funded by philanthropy, was introduced to support offer-holders and to help them to prepare for university

In January 2021, Lucy Cavendish College enrolled 29 offer-holders on a programme of mentoring and academic tuition, run in partnership with the educational charity Causeway Education.

The students selected for the programme were part of the College’s drive to widen participation at Cambridge. Overall, 25 of the participants came from backgrounds that are classified as among the ‘least advantaged’ by Oxford and Cambridge.All had demonstrated great academic potential during their application and the College was eager to ensure that their chance of being admitted to Cambridge would not be affected by the disruption their education had experienced over the last eighteen months.

Dr Mark King, Admissions Director,said:

“The recent pandemic has increased issues related to educational inequality in the UK. It has further widened the attainment gap between students from the most and least privileged backgrounds. The College’s mentoring programme aims to tackle these problems, providing personal and academic support to talented offer-holders from underrepresented backgrounds so that they can stand the best chance of achieving the conditions of their offer and prepare themselves for the transition to university.”

Whilst the key aims of the programme focussed on the students’ academic attainment and educational preparedness for Higher Education, a secondary aim was to allow offer-holders from similar subjects to meet each other in advance and to get used to studying together, hopefully helping them to settle in more quickly upon arrival in Cambridge.

Students were enrolled on the programme in one of two strands: arts, humanities and social sciences,or sciences and mathematics, each of which had a bespoke programme of knowledge and key skills development. After initial one-to-one meetings with their mentor, students were divided into small groups for monthly supervision-style tuition sessions. They were given preparatory work for each session, as well as follow-up work, and received extensive individual feedback on their work to help them to make progress.

Following the release of A-level results in August, it is clear that the programme has been a great success for the students enrolled on it. Of the 29 offer-holders to whom this support was offered, 27 chose to take up their place on the programme. Of these, 24students achieved the grades required by their offer and have been admitted toLucy.

Initial feedback from the students enrolled on the programme has been incredibly positive:

‘I’ve definitely grown my confidence through the meetings’

‘I feel like I’ve looked into things that I wouldn’t have done otherwise. So it’s also making me more cultured as a person. It’s making me more confident and aware of things’

‘It’s been really helpful in my development academically’

‘I absolutely love the tutor. I really enjoy doing the sessions with them. It’s really nice to explore my ideas’

‘It’s one of the things I look forward to within this very hectic time. I’m really grateful for this experience’

‘Having to go into these sessions and do mathematics in a different context has actually really opened my mind and kind of motivated me to think at a high level’

Mark concludes:

“Lucy Cavendish College is exceptionally grateful for the generosity of its donors, without whom this programme would not have been possible. A Cambridge education offers truly life-changing opportunities for many students, particularly those from underrepresented or disadvantaged backgrounds, so it is no stretch to say that our donors’ philanthropy has helped to change the lives of talented young people who deserve this opportunity. Our goal at Lucy Cavendish is to support more such students to access the education that Cambridge offers and we will continue to commit ourselves to programmes such as these which make a tangible difference to students’ chances of being admitted.”