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Postgraduate Admissions

 

Widening participation in postgraduate study at Cambridge

We are committed to widening participation at postgraduate level, both for Master’s study and doctoral research. People from Black British, British Bangladeshi, and British Pakistani ethnic groups are currently particularly underrepresented amongst our Home applicants (UK nationals) for postgraduate study at Cambridge, as are students of all ethnicities from low-income backgrounds.1 More widely across our applicant pool, our aspiration is also to improve representation of mature students, students with a caring responsibility, first-generation students (that is, students whose parents or immediate care-givers did not go to university), students who have themselves experienced being in care as a young person, and students who did their first degree at less research-intensive institutions, amongst other groups. We recognise that a range of factors can influence a student’s individual path into postgraduate study, and we are working hard to ensure that we engage sensitively and fairly with such variation to identify the most talented applicants from all backgrounds. Aligned with this, we believe strongly that proper representation of different lived experiences is key to sustaining and further developing the distinctively open and discursive environment that makes Cambridge such a rewarding place in which to undertake postgraduate study and research.

Additionally, whilst finding meaningful ways to assess ethnic and socio-economic underrepresentation amongst our wide-ranging international cohort is more complex, we are actively seeking solutions to address this important need, and will provide updates here as we progress in this area.

We welcome and encourage applications from people from groups underrepresented in postgraduate study

We actively encourage applications from prospective postgraduate students from underrepresented groups. If you love your subject and have an aptitude for study or research, and have gained, or are on course for, the minimum qualifying standard for your nominated course(s) (normally a good 2i or a First in your undergraduate study or a Merit or above in a Master’s degree), we would very much like to hear from you. If you come from a low-income background, you are likely to be eligible for an application fee waiver. If you are considering Master’s study, in addition to existing postgraduate funding schemes, the University is also in the process of substantially boosting the number of Master’s studentships designated expressly for postgraduate students from underrepresented groups, details of which will be announced here in due course. While Master’s funding opportunities can be very competitive, chances of full funding for doctoral study are statistically considerably higher. So, if you are serious about continuing on to do a PhD, it may not be a financial impossibility: in 2019-20, 73% of our doctoral students received full funding to do their PhD.

Admissions support and Student success

We are also making a number of changes in our postgraduate admissions practices to ensure that we support students from underrepresented groups to make competitive applications, particularly those applying from outside Cambridge. We have added new fields to our postgraduate application form, including expanding the set of protected characteristics we monitor,2 and adding an optional set of questions about socio-economic background, so that we can better understand how to adjust our processes to take into account the varying circumstances under which an applicant’s qualifications to date have been gained. This summer, we will pilot our new Experience PG Summer School in the Postgraduate School of Life Sciences and the Humanities, and the SHARE programme in the Social Sciences (with other Schools and other opportunities to follow), designed to equip penultimate-year undergraduates from underrepresented or disadvantaged groups with the lab (for STEM) and research experience that will support them to decide if postgraduate research is for them. We are also exploring other models to support greater diversity in the pipeline into and through postgraduate study, including talent scouting, applicant mentoring, and tailored support for postgraduate success from the point at which you accept your offer, as well as wider programmes for change relating to Western canon disruption and culture change. We will post news on all of these areas as soon as we have it.

Contact

Postgraduate Widening Participation at Cambridge is led by Katherine Powlesland. To discuss any aspect of postgraduate widening participation, please email pg-wp@admin.cam.ac.uk.

This page last updated: 1 April 2021

 

1 All data are 2015-2019 (aggregated) and refer to UK-domiciled applicants. University of Cambridge Postgraduate Admissions Office annual applications data is available here. For data on the ethnicity of UK-domiciled applicants for the most recent year available, see here (for 2019-20, see p. 26, Table 2.3b). For data on representation of ethnic minorities within the young adult population in England and Wales, see 2011 Census data here.

2 Under the UK Equality Act 2010, the following characteristics are protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation. Answering these questions is optional.