Cambridge Foundation Year Q&A


Foundation Year coordinators
Created: 3 months ago
Last modified: 3 months ago

Why was the Cambridge Foundation Year started?

The Cambridge Foundation Year is one of many activities designed to widen access to Cambridge for students who have faced disadvantage. Many students have experienced educational disadvantage which means - even with the additional support we offer through activities like the Cambridge Applicant Support Programme or the Sutton Trust Summer School - they are not in a position to make a competitive application to Cambridge. So, this new programme is designed to offer an alternative route to Cambridge for students that have experienced certain circumstances in their educational journey so far.

How is the Cambridge programme different from foundation years other universities may offer?

There are several differences. For one thing, it is a multi-disciplinary one-year course. It covers a range of subjects in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, so you don’t apply for one particular subject like you at some other universities. Also, our Foundation Year is a recognised qualification in itself – a Certificate of Higher Education – so, providing you pass the course, you earn a qualification from the University of Cambridge.

Another key difference is that the programme is free for students and it is fully-funded. This means you don’t need to avail yourself of student loans during the Foundation Year. You aren’t liable for any tuition fees for the Foundation Year, and your scholarship covers your living costs such as accommodation.

However, applicants should bear in mind that there are also eligibility criteria that applicants have to meet. These differ from the criteria for other programmes, so you should check if you can apply on our website: cam.ac.uk/foundationyear

What are the eligibility and academic requirements for the Foundation Year?

Our eligibility criteria are wide-ranging and are intended to capture different circumstances you might have experienced. This could include anyone who is currently in care or care experienced; students who are or have been young carers, or who may have experienced homelessness or bereavements; students from low-income households; and students whose schools or colleges have low rates of progression to higher education. The full list of our eligibility criteria is available here 🔗.

The academic entry requirements are 120 UCAS Tariff Points. For ease, many people understand this as equivalent to BBB at A-Level. However, it also means ABC or A*CC at A-Level. You can check what 120 UCAS Points would mean for your qualification type or combination of qualifications here 🔗.

There are no specific subject requirements, although some very vocationally oriented courses aren’t suitable. Find out more here 🔗.

What will the course involve?

On the Foundation Year, students can expect a challenging academic curriculum in the arts, humanities and social sciences. Our specially designed course offers the best possible preparation for the rigours of a Cambridge degree by broadening and deepening knowledge and understanding as well as introducing the ways students learn at Cambridge.

Students on the Foundation Year may expect to be taught through lectures, seminars and small-group supervisions by a dedicated Foundation Year teaching team. There will be typically 14-16 hours of timetabled teaching hours each week. This, combined with your independent study, will help develop students’ abilities to take philosophical, reflective and critical approaches using a range of methods of analysis.

Additionally, students admitted onto the Foundation Year will become part of a College community at one of the thirteen participating Colleges (full list on our website) and will live alongside other undergraduates with full access to all the University’s libraries, facilities and services.

Can students specialise at any point in the course?

Foundation Year students will have the opportunity to select papers on the Foundation Year based on their subject interests and academic strengths. The curriculum is offered across four streams: working with textual sources; working with material sources; working with languages; and working with data. Students will select and complete eight papers from the options available across these four streams.

All the papers will be interdisciplinary. That means that most have relevance to several different subjects and approaches. Some degrees have stipulated that you must complete certain streams to continue to their course, but you will still have a lot of flexibility.

What will students get at the end of the programme?

All Foundation Year students who complete the programme with a Pass or above will receive a recognised Certificate of Higher Education from the University of Cambridge. This is an FHEQ Level 4 qualification that will enable them to access a wide range of undergraduate-level courses.

Those aspiring to continue their study at Cambridge will be able to progress to degree courses if they attain 65% or higher overall. There are eighteen possible courses on offer, and you will be assessed for your aptitude for your preferred courses during the Foundation Year by your College.

How should students write a personal statement for a multi-disciplinary course?

We encourage applicants to the Foundation Year to use the opportunity in their UCAS personal statement to state their subject interest and reflect upon their learning ambitions and motivation for study.

For most, we very much appreciate that they may be simultaneously applying for degree courses at other institutions and as such would not expect the candidate to reflect on the Foundation Year itself in their personal statement (unless it was the only course they were applying for). As such, students could reflect on the subject that most interests them at this point.

An additional questionnaire sent to applicants after they apply will allow them the chance to reflect in particular on the Foundation Year course itself.

Will there be interviews and admissions tests? What will these entail?

The admissions process for the Foundation Year includes many of the same elements as admission to degree courses at Cambridge. Shortlisted applicants will be asked to complete a written pre-interview assessment from home or school, as well as being invited to interview.

The pre-interview assessment will be a short test. Unlike some other admissions assessments, there is no need to register separately for it. We will give you a period to complete it and return it, and it will involve a short writing task (responding to essay prompts) as well as reading and listening comprehension tasks. There will be more guidance released about this in due course, but applicants should be assured that the expectations will be made clear.

As in our usual interviews process, shortlisted applicants will have at least two interviews and these will take between 20 and 30 minutes. The general principle of these is the same as other interviews at Cambridge: interviewers will be looking to assess your academic potential and your motivation to study. Questions could vary depending on the subjects you’ve studied already, but they will be discussion-based and academic in focus.

How should students prepare for the course?

For this course, we particularly advise that students check their eligibility in good time. You may have queries about your eligibility and if we receive these sooner rather than later we have the best chance of helping address those queries. We advise checking the criteria criteria 🔗 and emailing with queries.

Students applying for the Foundation Year can express a college preference or make an open application and be assigned to a college. Anyone who isn’t familiar with the role of colleges in life at Cambridge should explore that to be able to choose whether to express a preference or not. You can find out more here 🔗. If they do want to express a preference, you can explore all the colleges participating (full list here 🔗).

As with any course at Cambridge, in the admissions process, we are looking for students with the potential to succeed. Doing anything that inspires you to be a better student and do as well as possible in your examinations is a good idea. This could be things like delving deeper into subjects you like or reading broadly. It could also include listening to podcasts, watching lectures or talks on YouTube, talking about subject interests with friends or teachers and much more. HE+ 🔗 is a great place to look for ideas and to learn about some of the subjects that the Cambridge Foundation Year can lead to.