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Overview of research into admissions and evaluation of WP

Much of our admissions and related research is undertaken or supported by a research unit within the Cambridge Admissions Office, which was expanded significantly in 2016/17. The research and evaluation remit of this unit can be summarised under two broad and inter-related themes:

  1. Efforts to continually assess and improve the fairness of our admissions, including informing our use of contextual data in the admissions process and our admissions targets (and also the targeting of some of our outreach activities). More specifically:
  • Profiling the national pool of potential applicants with high prior academic attainment by characteristic and background using data from UCAS, HESA and the DfE (insofar as their data policies allow);
  • Making comparisons between Cambridge and the wider HE sector;
  • Assessing the predictive quality and impact of contextual data, and other characteristics and circumstances, for example on admission and then in terms of student success (such as degree outcomes) once admitted;
  • Assessing the predictive quality and evaluating the impact of our recently introduced admissions assessments in our admissions process;
  • Researching the proxies that Cambridge and the wider HE sector utilise to identify individuals who have characteristics, circumstances or backgrounds that are typically associated with disadvantage or under-representation in highly selective HE
  1. Conducting and developing the evaluation of widening participation and outreach activities, including:
  • Developing a comprehensive evaluation framework for these activities, complemented by evaluation plans for individual activities (for more information, see our 2019-20 Access and Participation Plan, https://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/files/publications/university_of_cambridge_app_2019_20.pdf, from page 32);
  • Coordinating and supporting the monitoring and evaluation of widening participation and outreach activities across the collegiate University, in part through an institutional rollout of the Higher Education Access Tracker (HEAT);
  • Tracking the HE progression outcomes of participants in our widening participation and outreach activities, as part of our evaluation of these activities (where progression to Cambridge or to HE more generally is an intended outcome or interim evaluation measure).

 

In depth analysis of the issues affecting admissions policy

Office for Fair Access (OFFA) Access Agreement 2017-18: Re-evaluation of admissions target for maintained school pupils

Research Date: 01/10/2016

Researcher: Dr Alexa Horner, Research Officer, Cambridge Admissions Office

This paper details our 2015-16 re-evaluation of the University of Cambridge’s maintained sector admissions target, which informed the collegiate University’s decision to retain an ultimate target of 64% in our 2017-18 Access Agreement.

Office for Fair Access (OFFA) Access Agreement 2017-18: Re-evaluation of POLAR3 Q1 and Q2 admissions target

Research Date: 01/10/2016

Researcher: Dr Alexa Horner, Research Officer, Cambridge Admissions Office

This paper details our 2015-16 re-evaluation of the University of Cambridge’s POLAR3 admissions target, which informed the collegiate University’s decision to retain an ultimate target of 13% in our 2017-18 Access Agreement.

Office for Fair Access (OFFA) Access Agreement 2017-18: Admissions target based on Output Area Classification 2011

Research Date: 01/10/2016

Researcher: Dr Alexa Horner, Research Officer, Cambridge Admissions Office

This paper details the 2015-16 research which informed the collegiate University’s decision to introduce a new OAC-related admissions target into the University’s 2017-18 Access Agreement with the Office for Fair Access (OFFA), and which determined an appropriate target.

Office for Fair Access (OFFA) Access Agreement 2017-18: Use of Output Area Classification 2011 (OAC2011)

Research Date: 01/10/2016

Researcher: Dr Alexa Horner, Research Officer, Cambridge Admissions Office & Dr Catherine Sumnall, former Research Officer, Cambridge Admissions Office

This paper details our 2014 assessment of OAC2011’s ability to identify those applicants to the University of Cambridge whose circumstances we know to be associated with relative disadvantage, and the evidence-based selection of the specific OAC2011 subgroups that should receive the OAC “flag” in our admissions process.

Destinations of first degree graduates from the University of Cambridge using data from 2011/12 and 2012/13 DLHE returns: A comparison of bursary recipients and non-bursary recipients

Research Date: 01/07/2015

Researcher: The University of Cambridge Careers Service

This paper briefly compares the employment and salary outcomes of recent Cambridge graduates that received a bursary with those that did not.

ANOVA on A*s at A-level and Tripos performance

Research Date: 01/07/2015

Researcher: Dr Catherine Sumnall, Research Officer, Cambridge Admissions Office

This paper tests three hypotheses:

  • If the UMS attainment of applicants made an offer of a place at Cambridge is significantly higher than those not made the offer of a place, and,
  • Whether this relationship is consistent across all Tripos subjects for which students are admitted, and,
  • How far differentiation in UMS attainment is consistent across the sector, inasmuch as whether Cambridge applicants with the highest attainment tend to attend the more selective universities

UMS performance and the eventual HE destination of Cambridge applicants

Research Date: 01/07/2015

Researcher: Dr Catherine Sumnall, Research Officer, Cambridge Admissions Office

This paper provides an assessment of the relationship between the attainment of A* grades in GCE A-levels and Tripos performance. It builds on previous work, which demonstrated a clear positive relationship between the total number of A* grades attained at A-level, and performance in first year Tripos examinations.

The link between IB performance and success at Cambridge

Research Date: 17/10/2012

Researcher: Dr Geoff Parks Senior Tutor, Jesus College

Research by the University of Cambridge shows that strong performance in the International Baccalaureate predicts success at Cambridge.

The study - Academic Performance of International Baccalaureate Students at Cambridge - examines the relationships between students' prior attainment in the IB and results achieved in Cambridge examinations. It finds that two 7s in Higher Level subjects and overall scores of 39 or more for Science courses and of 42 or more for Arts and Social Sciences courses predict a better-than-average likelihood of obtaining a II.1 or a First at Cambridge.

A* at A Level as a Predictor of Tripos Performance: An initial analysis

Research Date: 22/12/2011

Researcher: Dr Peter Chetwynd - Cambridge Admissions Office

This paper explores the interrelationship between achieved A* grades at A Level and University of Cambridge formal examination ('Tripos') performance at the end of students' first year of study in 2011. We believe that this is the first examination of the utility of A* as an indicator of potential for academic success at any university to have been made public.

UK Undergraduate Admissions to Cambridge: Setting an Additional Target to Widen Participation

Research Date: 30/06/2011

Researcher: Richard Partington - Chair of Admissions Research Working Party

The University of Cambridge has already set out its ambition to admit 61-63% of UK undergraduates from state schools and colleges. This paper discusses the HESA Performance Indicators relating to NS-SEC classes 4-7 and Low Participation Neighbourhoods and considers the form of any additional UK undergraduate admissions target that Cambridge should set itself.

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