It was clear at an early stage that the A-level grading process had been problematic, and we took a flexible, robust and compassionate process to managing our undergraduate admissions.
Newnham College usually aims for an intake of 120 first years. This year, we have now confirmed places for 132 offer-holders at Newnham, some of whom have chosen to defer to 2021, and two were offered places at other Colleges.
We were able to confirm 105 places immediately on the 14 August, for those whose initial grades met their offer. However, in collaboration with other Colleges, and by considering all students’ circumstances, application files and interviews, we were also able to confirm places for a group of students whose initial grades did not meet their offer as well as ensuring we reserved some places for students who we expected to meet their offers after appeal.
Meanwhile, our admissions team was in regular and timely contact with the other offer holders, discussing their options. At that point, the options were appeals or autumn exams. We confirmed to our offer holders that we were reserving places for those who were successful through those routes.
Following the Government U-turn, on 19 August, we received the ‘centre assessment grades’ or CAGs (i.e. the grades that teachers had assessed their students at). At this point, we were delighted to be able to confirm a further 19 places for a third group of our offer holders.
For a very small number of offer-holders, their CAGs still did not meet the conditions of their offer. These students have been informed that their 2021 place is secure if they go on to meet their offer following the autumn sittings.
At this point, we had 132 confirmed offer-holders. We wrote to all confirmed offer-holders to see if anyone wished to defer to 2021, and a number have willingly taken that opportunity.
We are very much looking forward to welcoming all our new first year undergraduates to Newnham.
Widening participation at Newnham
Our state school intake this year will be around 70% of our UK students, with the majority of those coming from non-selective comprehensives and sixth-form/FE colleges. Around half of our home offer-holders have one or more contextual flags (e.g. eligibility for free school meals, low-performing GCSE school, low participation neighbourhood etc; around 40% of those who attended Independent schools have one or more of these flags). The number of incoming students eligible for free school meals will also be above the University average. Those proportions did not change as a result of the new group of confirmations.
Newnham has a strong widening participation programme, meaning that we have one of the highest percentages of state school applicants in the University which has been reflected in our intake for this year. Our alumnae and students play a huge part in making this programme the success that it is.
We have continued to invest in and run our outreach programme throughout lockdown, with a series of online events. Students, alumnae and staff have all worked together to challenge stereotypes about studying at Cambridge. Indeed, some school pupils who wouldn’t have visited Cambridge in person have been able to join our online workshops.
The Newnham community
Over the course of the last 10 days, we have received many messages regarding the University admissions process, from our alumnae, students and Fellows. It has been hugely moving to see the messages about what a difference Newnham made to people’s lives.
Knowing how much their Newnham experience has meant to them, our student and alumnae are all the more determined that a new generation should have their chance to experience this too. Thank you for all your offers of support.