HOW TO GET IN TO CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY

Admissions tutor sets out the stall

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Richard Partington, an Admissions tutor at Churchill College, Cambridge University, at a Cambridge Assessment seminar this month ,  set out what the University is looking for in  its applicants.

Not much has changed in the last quarter century, it transpires.  Applicants should be independent learners with an excellent capacity to absorb, sort, judge and communicate information, and to ask questions. Their exam results should indicate stretch at the very highest level. (good grades at A level-and, of course, GCSE), They should have very good subject and technical knowledge. They should  also  be fluent linguistically and/or scientifically and  show that  they have worked hard. All fairly obvious stuff, but interestingly, he said, certainly as far as Cambridge is concerned, that extracurricular activities are definitely  taken into account by admissions tutors (unlike most  Oxford Colleges).

He said that Cambridge University, rated in one recent  table as   the top University in the world, has to work hard to judge applicants from different   educational and cultural backgrounds reasonably and  fairly against one another. And to accommodate applicants who have learned in   different places and in different  ways  and at different times.

The way in which they are taught and learn at the University is essentially unchanged: e-mail has replaced the letter and hard-copy books are being replaced by electronic materials, but the fundamentals remain. Indeed, in many courses, students are still required to use pen and ink to write essays because of the type of discipline and thinking that this encourages (no cutting and pasting-imagine that!)  But students now come from across the globe, which   presents additional challenges for secondary education  and examination internationally – as well as admissions staff , in terms of communication, assessment and  support. The underlying message seems to be-we are an elite institution which awards places on merit, while taking into account potential , and we  maintain our excellence because we are absolutely in charge of our own admissions. Politicians should  take note.

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