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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 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

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,, 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).

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