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Cambridge Admissions Office


Much of our admissions and related research is undertaken or supported by a research unit within the Cambridge Admissions Office, which was expanded 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 Access and Participation Plans)
  • 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)

For further information on our Admissions Research, please email

Latest research

The evidence concerning justification of differential offers at the University of Cambridge

Research Date: 31/05/2022

Researcher: Dr Alexa Horner, Senior Researcher (Admissions and Widening Participation), Cambridge Admissions Office

This paper considers the rationale behind making differential offers, explores the pre-existing relevant evidence which could inform whether or not these are justified at Cambridge, and then presents two novel analyses which expand the evidence base. Neither analysis provides support for the Colleges of the University of Cambridge making differential offers. The reasons for this are briefly considered, and the paper concludes with an Addendum from January 2024 about an alternative that the Collegiate University has since pursued.

APP Research Papers 2020

Research Date: 16/11/2020

Researcher: Cambridge Admissions Office; Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning; Cambridge Careers Service; and the Business Information Team

In 2019, the University of Cambridge conducted a self-assessment of undergraduate admissions as part of the development of the current 2020-21 to 2024-25 Access and Participation Plan (APP). 

Formulating admissions targets for the University of Cambridge’s Access and Participation Plan (2020-21 to 2024-25)

Research Date: 31/08/2019

Researcher: Dr Rachel Sequeira, Research Analyst (Admissions), Cambridge Admissions Office

The University of Cambridge has set four access (admissions) targets for the 2020-21 to 2024-25 Access and Participation Plan: to increase the proportion of UK resident students admitted (i) from UK state maintained sector schools/colleges, (ii) from POLAR4 quintile 1 areas, (iii) from POLAR4 quintile 1 or 2 areas, (iv) from regional IMD quintile 1 or 2 areas. This paper outlines the methodology used to formulate these targets.

Self-assessment for the 2020-21 to 2024-25 Access and Participation Plan

Research Date: 31/08/2019

Researcher: Dr Rachel Sequeira, Research Analyst (Admissions), Cambridge Admissions Office

This paper contains part of our 2019 self-assessment of the University of Cambridge’s current, and recent, admissions position (it is designed to be read alongside the 2020-21 to 2024-25 Access and Participation Plan, which contains the rest of the assessment).

Financial support and undergraduate outcomes 2019

Research Date: 20/06/2019

Researcher: Sonia Ilie, Alexa Horner, Neil Kaye, Sara Curran - University of Cambridge

This report provides evidence as to the relationship between financial support provision and outcomes for undergraduate students in the University of Cambridge. The report fits within a broader research effort in the University to evaluate the impact of financial support, and the flagship Cambridge Bursary Scheme (CBS) in particular, on a series of critical student outcomes, and to guide the future evolution of financial support policies in the institution.

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