Cambridge has announced that as of the 2015 application cycle students studying Maths, Medicine, Engineering, and Science will be required to attain at least A*A*A grades in their A-levels, prompting concern over access.
A spokesperson for the University told The Cambridge Student that “the revised offer gives applicants a clearer indication of the level of attainment realistically required to compete for a place, and to thrive on [our] science courses”.
The University pointed out that this does not “raise the bar” as 92% of successful applicants already achieve A*A*A or better with the average number of A*s achieved closer to three than to two.
Entry requirements for Arts subjects will remain at A*AA. A University spokesperson explained that: Research has shown different patterns of attainment between Arts and Sciences students across the UK. Science applications typically offer four A levels; Arts applicants typically offer three. Scientists are more likely to achieve multiple A* grades.”
A second year Scientist told TCS “most people are already getting at least two A*s anyway” but raised concerns that “it could be bad for access-schools which get fewer A*s may be reluctant to predict them, even to able students.” Alissa Lamb, head of Access at Trinity Hall, said: “I don’t think the change in entry requirement is necessary to distinguish the top pupils if Cambridge continues to interview the highest calibre applicants and base their decision on that they see at interview. Personally, all I can see this change doing is putting greater pressure on students for their A-level exams and potentially putting off students with less confidence in their own abilities, many of whom will be from disadvantaged backgrounds.”
A Cambridge spokesperson stated that access will not be adversely affected: “the University will continue to make non-standard offers where appropriate, based on consideration of relevant contextual data including any extenuating circumstances which may have adversely affected the applicant’s academic achievement.