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Postgraduate Study


At Cambridge, we're working hard to make sure our admissions processes are as fair as possible to allow us to assess potential for postgraduate study.

This includes the collection and use of contextual data, which allows us to understand the circumstances of your achievements to date. We recognise that not all students have equal access to educational and social opportunities, and to help us understand more about your achievements, you may be asked to provide information in your application about previous study. Providing this information is optional and if you choose to supply it, it will support assessors to make well-informed decisions. 

What information will I be asked to provide?

Depending on the programme that you are applying to, you may be asked to provide supplementary information to support your application. We are currently trialling different ways of collecting and using contextual data, so there may be some variation between courses. Your application will not be disadvantaged if you choose not to provide contextual information. 

Applicants who completed the majority of their secondary education in the UK will be asked to provide contextual information about their secondary education in the widening participation section of the applicant portal. The information provided in this section will be available to assessors, with some applicants being highlighted.

UK secondary-educated applicants will also be given the option to provide additional contextual information to support the University of Cambridge’s participation in the NEON Admissions Data Capture Project. In collaboration with several other higher education institutions, the University of Cambridge will be sharing pseudonymised application data to enable meaningful analysis of applications and entrants to postgraduate study, against a range of criteria. This information will not be visible to assessors and will not be used in assessment of your application. 

Finally, all applicants to a selected number of courses are being given the option to provide contextual information about the circumstances of their undergraduate study. This information will be available to assessors.

Courses collecting contextual information

Institute of Astronomy 
  • MAST in Astrophysics
  • PhD in Astronomy
  • MPhil in Astronomy
  • Biological Sciences
  • MPhil in Biological Sciences
Faculty of Biological Sciences
  • MPhil in Biological Sciences
Department of Chemistry
  • PhD in Chemistry
  • MPhil in Chemistry
  • NOTAF in SynTech (EPSRC CDT)
Department of Engineering
  • MRes+PhD Future Infrastructure & Built Environment EPSRC CDT
  • MPhil in Energy Technologies
Department of Geography
  • PhD in Geography
  • MPhil in Geography (Science)
  • MPhil in Anthropocene Studies
  • MPhil in Holocene Climates
  • MPhil in Conservation Leadership
  • PhD in Polar Studies at Scott Polar RI
  • MPhil in Polar Studies
Department of Pathology
  • PhD in Pathology
  • MPhil in Biological Science (Pathology)
Department of Physics
  • MPhil in Intensive Data Science
Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience
  • PhD (Probationary) in Physiology Development and Neuroscience 
  • MPhil in Biological Science (PDN)
  • MPhil in Basic and Translational Neuroscience

How will assessors use my information?

Offers to study are made on the basis of academic merit. Assessors will use the contextual information you provide to better understand the circumstances of your previous achievements and identify applicants with potential to succeed at Cambridge. Contextual information will be taken into consideration alongside the other information and materials that you submit as part of your application. We do not use contextual data to systematically lower entry requirements.  

Anonymised data will also be used for anonymous statistical reporting to evaluate the success of the Pilot, and may be linked to other sources such as outcomes to ensure that our Widening Participation policies are working. Your personal information will be treated in accordance with the UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and related data protection legislation. Full details of how the University of Cambridge will treat your data are set out in our privacy notice for applicants.

Who can I contact about this?

If you have any questions about contextual data, please contact the Postgraduate Widening Participation team at