skip to content

Postgraduate Admissions

 

Information for applicants for Postgraduate study

At Cambridge, we are working hard to make sure our postgraduate admissions processes are as fair as possible, and have been exploring for some time how to better understand and assess potential for postgraduate study. Following initial Pilots in 2020 and 2021, and in ongoing dialogue with students and selectors, we are continuing to formally pilot new selection procedures designed to promote contextualised understanding and to minimise biases.

Is my course participating in a Pilot?

The How to Apply section of our individual Course Pages contains full instructions for submitting your application for postgraduate study, including information about any additional material required for each course. If the course you are applying for is piloting a new selection procedure, the Course Page will tell you this and you will automatically be guided through the additional steps you need to fulfil. On both the Course Page and the Application Form you will be offered a link to this Information page for more background information about the relevant Pilot. 

Because this is a Pilot, only certain courses are taking part. The participating courses, listed by department, are shown below under each Pilot. If your course is not listed, it is not participating in a Pilot this year, and there is nothing extra that you need to do. 

How will the Pilot change the assessment of the application?

Very importantly, the basis on which we make offers to study continues to be academic merit. Outstanding candidates will continue to shine through. What our current Pilots are designed to do, following extensive analysis of our admissions pipeline data and consultation, is to provide an extra layer of contextual information to help us look for hidden potential. We recognise that not all talented students have access to the same advantages on their pathway to postgraduate study. Using contextual data alongside all the other data provided as part of the Cambridge application helps us identify applicants with potential at an early stage of the admissions pipeline and supports well-informed decision-making.

Typically, the additional application step for each Pilot consists of filling out a short supplementary form. You do not have to provide any personal information unless you wish to. Your application will not be disadvantaged if you choose not to provide information; your academic merit will be assessed on the basis of your full application in the round, as always. If you consider that you have no information to supply, we still encourage you to read the questions, as there may be types of context we would like to know about that you may not necessarily have thought might be relevant.
Information about how your data may be used is provided below for each Pilot.

Pilots in 2022-23

1. Contextual Admissions Pilot

Participating courses and course codes

In the Department of Applied Maths and Theoretical Physics: 

  • MPhil in Data Intensive Science (PCPHM1)

In the Institute of Astronomy: 

  • MASt in Astrophysics (MASAS)
  • MPhil in Astronomy (PCAYM2)
  • PhD in Astronomy (PCAY22)

In the Faculty of Biology: 

  • MPhil in Biological Sciences by advanced study (all pathways) (BLM6)

In the School of the Biological Sciences: 

  • BBSRC DTP PhD in Biological Sciences (BLBB22)

In the Department of Chemistry: 

  • MPhil in Chemistry (CHM1)
  • PhD in Chemistry (PCCH22)
  • PhD in Automated Chemical Synthesis Enabled by DMT (PCCHSY22)

In the Department of Earth Sciences: 

  • MRes + PhD in AI4ER (EAESR1)

In the Department of Engineering: 

  • MPhil in Energy Technologies (EGM9)
  • MRes + PhD in Future Structure & Built Environment (EGEGR3)

In the Department of Geography: 

  • MPhil in Geography (EAGGM11 and EAGGM12)
  • MPhil in Anthropocene Studies (EAGGM2)
  • MPhil in Holocene Climates (EAGGM3)
  • MPhil in Conservation Leadership (GEM10)
  • PhD in Geography (EAGG21 and EAGG22)

In the Department of Pathology: 

  • MPhil in Biological Science (Pathology) by thesis (BLPAM1)
  • PhD in Pathology (BLPA22, BLPABB22, and BLPANH224)

In the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience: 

  • MPhil in Biological Science (PDN) by thesis (BLPNM1)
  • MPhil in Basic and Translational Neuroscience (BLPNM3)
  • PhD in Physiology, Development and Neuroscience (BLPN22)

In the Scott Polar Research Institute: 

  • MPhil in Polar Studies (GEM7)
  • PhD in Polar Studies (EASP21 and EASP22)

Summary information relating to the Contextual Admissions Pilot

The Pilot consists of a short supplementary form presented to all applicants (UK-domiciled and International), as part of the application form on the Cambridge Applicant Portal. The form invites you to provide contextual information about the circumstances of your undergraduate study, including any essential regular commitments, serious disruption, or anything that may have held you back before you started to shine. 

Any information provided will be shared directly with selectors. Selectors are not obliged to take into account the information but all courses taking part have actively chosen to volunteer to participate in the Pilot. Participating departments have been trained in the responsible use of contextual data. Your completion of each question is taken as confirmation of your agreement to share this data with the University.

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.

For any technical difficulties in submitting your application through the Cambridge Applicant Portal, please contact pg.admissions@caosupport.admin.ac.uk. For any specific questions about Postgraduate Widening Participation at Cambridge, please contact pg-wp@admin.cam.ac.uk

2.    Rare Contextual Recruitment System (CRS) Pilot
 

Important note: this Pilot applies ONLY to UK applicants.

Participating courses and course codes:

In the Department of Politics and International Studies: 

  •  PhD Politics & International Studies (HUPI21)

In the department of Psychology:

  • PhD Psychology (BLPC22)

Summary information relating to the Rare CRS Pilot

We are running this Pilot in co-operation with the University of Oxford as part of our Close the Gap 4-year collaborative partnership to deliver fairer admissions in postgraduate study in the UK. 
The Rare CRS Pilot is for UK applicants ONLY; that is, those that are ordinarily resident in the UK. This is because the Contextual Recruitment System includes data about secondary school qualifications which cannot yet be assessed for International applicants.

There are two Pilot courses in each University. Our two participating courses at Cambridge are the PhD in Politics & International Studies and the PhD in Psychology.

The Pilot consists of a short supplementary form that is made available to applicants via a link on the Cambridge application form to an external, secure, dedicated webpage, ‘University of Cambridge at Rare’. Please remember to SAVE your current application before you transfer to this webpage. The webpage is hosted by Rare Recruitment. Rare are leaders in diversity graduate recruitment in the UK and over the last decade have developed a Contextual Recruitment System that is successfully used by many major graduate recruiters in the UK to deliver fairer representation in leading professions. As part of our Close the Gap project, we have extensively interrogated the viability of the CRS and are ready to pilot it as one component in our wider assessment of a total application.

The CRS asks you questions about your secondary education, qualifications, socio-economic background and circumstances. A small number of questions that Rare asks you will be similar to questions you have already answered on the Cambridge Applicant Portal, for which we apologise, but at this Pilot stage we are not able to share data across systems. After the last question on the CRS, you will be offered a link to return you to the main Cambridge Applicant Portal. Alternatively, or if for any reason you have difficulty in using that link, you can simply re-enter the Cambridge Applicant Portal in your usual way or by using this link.

Any information provided will be available to selectors. Selectors are not obliged to take into account the information but the courses taking part have actively chosen to volunteer to participate in the Pilot. No automated decisions are made using this information and Rare provides training on best practice use of contextual data. The University can access all the contextual candidate data, including answers to contextual questions and their contextualised results. Your completion of each question is taken as confirmation of your agreement to share this data with the University.
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.

For any technical difficulties in submitting your application through the Cambridge Applicant Portal, please contact pg.admissions@caosupport.admin.ac.uk. For any specific questions about Postgraduate Widening Participation at Cambridge, please contact pg-wp@admin.cam.ac.uk