The University of Cambridge is set to launch a new foundation year designed to allow disadvantaged students with lower grades the chance to access an undergraduate degree at the institution.
Typically, applicants must receive at least A*AA at A level to take up a place at the prestigious university.
However, the new foundation year will allow entry for those who receive BBB grades.
It is aimed at a “new stream” of students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, such as growing up in care, or coming from low-income families.
The move comes after Cambridge has been criticised for a lack of inclusivity and not doing enough to improve access for disadvantaged students.
The course will be fully funded, and covers an “engaging and challenging multidisciplinary curriculum” in the arts, humanities and social sciences.
If students attain the required level of achievement, they will then be able to undertake their undergraduate degree either at Cambridge, or another institution of their choice.
The participants will live in college, and join in with usual Cambridge university life.
Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor, said that the new programme will “transform lives”.
"Students will be drawn from a range of backgrounds, the common link being that their circumstances have prevented them from realising their academic potential. They will benefit from our personal approach to teaching and grow in confidence and understanding, and we will benefit from them joining and further diversifying our community."
Professor Graham Virgo, Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, said: “The University’s work to explore new ways of widening access and closing the attainment gap caused by inequality is absolutely vital at a time when those the Foundation Year is aimed at – who already face exceptional disadvantage - are likely to have felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately.
“Cambridge is committed to further diversifying its student body and welcoming all those who have the ability to achieve here, regardless of background.”
The programme is open to students who reside in the UK, and will begin in October 2022.