Applications made easy

Deputy News Editor 21 February 2008

CAF and £10 fee scrapped in access overhaul

Applications for prospective Cambridge students will soon become significantly easier and less daunting, the University has announced.

The additional £10 fee and extra blue form have finally been abolished for all those Cambridge hopefuls. From September 2008, applicants will be asked to include Cambridge as an option on their standard UCAS form, completing an additional online questionnaire once their application is submitted.

The traditional Cambridge Application Form (CAF) was first introduced over fifty years ago in order to provide colleges with the additional information required to assess potential candidates. University officials believe the £10 fee was originally intended to cover the cost of food and accommodation whilst the candidate came to interview.

The early October deadline will remain the same however, in order to ensure the “intensive scrutiny” that each application undergoes, and to provide sufficient time to organize the 12,000 interviews which take place at the end of December.

It is hoped that the measures will encourage applications from students from a wider range of social backgrounds and prevent “non-traditional” applicants from being put off by the additional costs and requirements. Education expert Polly Curtis interpreted the university’s announcement as an admission of failure in direct response to the recent criticisms. Writing in The Guardian, she suggested that Oxbridge are introducing changes to their admissions systems because “they have failed to significantly increase the number of applicants from state schools.

“The moves follow new pressure from the government on elite universities to become more inclusive.”

Higher Education minister Bill Rammell recently criticised Oxbridge colleges for not accepting enough working-class students. (See The Cambridge Student, Issue 5).

But Director of Admissions Dr Geoff Parks told The Cambridge Student (TCS): “The timing is entirely coincidental. The discussions about discontinuing the application form first started when we started introducing Camsis in 2003. Detailed discussions started last summer and a formal proposal was made in the Michaelmas term.”

In response to whether he was optimistic about the changes, Parks said: “I guess we expect a differential impact on the students who’d feel more cautious about applying to Cambridge and maybe the existence of an extra form was enough to put them off.

“Having said that, those of us who’ve been in admissions long enough know not to count our chickens,” he added.

Figures released from the university revealed that 58% of students who matriculated in 2005 were from state-schools, whilst the number dropped to 56% in 2006. Parks openly admitted the slowing progress and described the university’s revised scheme to address the issue:

“Nobody’s going to pretend things are going just fine because they aren’t. We need to do something about it and this announcement is a tiny part of that strategy but symbolically it’s quite a significant one.”

Other measures include a revision of the Cambridge Bursary Scheme as well as reassessment of degree titles. Parks said:

“Our course names are pretty obscure, you know, what the hell is land economy? It’s actually a really interesting degree course but why would you even look at a course called that unless you knew about it already?”

Parks also predicted that Oxford will follow suit: “I imagine they would find it difficult being different from us in this respect there’s certainly going to be a lot of pressure for them to bring their process in line with ours”

“Of course you might legitimately ask whether we delayed this announcement until it was too late for them to do anything.”

Details of the number of applicants from state-schools for this year are due to be released in early March.

Jennifer Shaw

Deputy News Editor