2017 admissions statistics show increased intake of state educated students

Sophie Laura Weymes-McElderry 11 May 2018

Recently released admissions statistics covering the 2016-2017 admissions cycle show an increase in the number of overall applications made to the university, as well as an increase in the number of state school acceptances to 64.1% of the intake.

Despite criticism being angled at the university for its lack of significant expansion following the student cap being lifted in 2012, last year the university made 4,485 offers, up 4.1% from last year when only 4,307 were made.

Last year, the now-defunct Office for Fair Access challenged the University of Cambridge to accept 62.7% of its 2017 cohort from state schools, and 11.5% from POLAR3 quintiles 1 and 2. With 40.3% of initial applications being successful across those two quintiles, the university confidently beat both targets.

Only 96.7% of those accepted achieved A*AA or higher in their top three A-levels, down from 97% the previous year, meaning more students were accepted despite missing out on their initial offer (0.2% in the Arts and Social Sciences, and 2.1% in the Sciences).

Similarly, 64.1% of first-year undergraduates are from state schools, whilst 35.9% are from maintained schools. However, the success rate for maintained schools is still eclipsed by that of independent schools. Students at independent schools have a nearly 6% greater chance of getting in to Cambridge than their state educated peers.

Natural Sciences was shown to have the greatest number of state school students in the 2017 cohort, as over 300 home maintained school students took up their place at Cambridge. Meanwhile, Wolfson far outranked the other colleges in terms of number of state school admissions, taking 92.3% of its cohort from state maintained schools. Of the undergraduate colleges, Churchill made 76.5% of its offers to state-school students, but St John’s found itself at the opposite end of the scale, as only 48.6% of its students did not come from independent schools. 

A spokeswoman for St John’s College said: “We are committed to widening participation and continually review the effectiveness of our extensive outreach initiatives, but there is still work to do to show that St John’s is open to talented young people regardless of their background."

The university also saw a significant increase in the proportion of students whose home postcode was listed as being in a flagged subgroup, with characteristics associated with relative disadvantage, according to the Output Area Classification, or OAC. This rose from 7.8% last year to 10.4%. However, there was a smaller reported increase in the number of acceptances for students from black or minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds. Whilst 21.8% were accepted last year, this rose by only 0.3% to 22.1%.

Six successful students described themselves as coming from black or black British-Caribbean backgrounds with fifty more from black or black British-African backgrounds.  2,014 were white.

Meanwhile, there was a 20.8% success rate across students applying from POLAR3 quintile 1, designated as postcode area with the lowest percentage of young people in higher education participation. 

Furthermore, this year Northern Ireland had the largest overall success rate per area, with 29.2% of all acceptances going to its students, whilst Greater London and the South East received 23.6% and 25.7% of all acceptances respectively, despite submitting the second- and third-greatest number of applications over the 2016 UCAS admissions cycle.

The University still has work to do in Scotland and the West Midlands, however, as the two regions had the lowest number of acceptances across the UK: 16.3% of Scottish candidates were accepted, whilst the figure was 19.7% for the West Midlands.

Maths and science-oriented subjects such as Economics, Computer Science and Engineering saw a significant number of applications from male candidates, often outweighing their female counterparts by more than 4:1 in the case of Computer Science, event at the acceptances stage.

However, the male to female ratio becomes more balanced in the case of Medicine, whilst acceptances by female candidates outweigh those of their male peers in the case of Veterinary Medicine and Psychological and Behavioural Sciences, where 12 male candidates were accepted to 47 female candidates.