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University places in 2021: Russell Group universities willing to accept more students again this year

“Russell Group universities will be as fair and flexible as possible”

Russell Group universities are willing to expand their student numbers again in 2021, to make sure that applicants don’t miss out on getting a place because of Covid-19.

The Russell Group – which is a group of 24 highly regarded UK universities – wrote a letter to Year 13 students who might have concerns about how the pandemic, school closures and cancelled exams could affect starting university in 2021.

The letter, written by the chief executive of the Russell Group, Dr Tim Bradshaw, said that “we want to reassure students across all four nations of the UK that whatever the assessment system in 2021, Russell Group universities will be as fair and flexible as possible to ensure they are not disadvantaged in their applications.”

In 2020, there was “a significant increase in the number of students taking up a place at higher tariff universities, such as those in the Russell Group. This included those from the most underrepresented areas and groups” and “our universities will take forward a similar approach this year,” Bradshaw said in the letter.

There was an increase of 12% placed applicants at high-tariff universities from 2019 to 2020, according to Ucas data – and a 22% increase of students from the most underrepresented communities at high-tariff universities in 2020, showed analysis published by the Office for Students.

The reason for this increase was because last year’s teacher-assessed grades in place of cancelled exams saw more A-level students getting top grades, meaning that a greater number of applicants were able to meet their university offers than in a regular year.

Students starting university in 2021 can also expect “additional academic and welfare support” Bradshaw said.

“This year our universities invested significantly to increase the support available to students including by offering key services online such as counselling, welfare advice, and specialist study skills. We will continue to look closely at the likely needs of students starting in 2021 to ensure the necessary support is also available for this cohort,” Bradshaw’s letter explained.

Cambridge University offering free foundation year for disadvantaged students who don’t meet entry requirements from 2022

Applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds who don’t make the University of Cambridge’s entry requirements can apply to take a free foundation year at the university in October 2022.

The one year course is aimed at “applicants who have the ability to succeed at Cambridge, but have been prevented from reaching their full potential by their circumstances,” and is designed to “prepare students for further learning” and allow them to start an undergraduate degree at the university on completing the course, the University of Cambridge said.

This could include students who have been in care or are estranged from their families, students whose education has been disrupted and those from low-income families, among other disadvantaged groups. 

Students who want to apply will need to send an application through Ucas before the January 2022 deadline. There will be interviews and assessments to choose up to 50 successful applicants, and the university has said that offers will probably require 120 Ucas points – equivalent to BBB at A-level.

On successfully finishing the foundation year, students will be given a recognised Certificate of Higher Education and will be able to go straight onto a degree in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Cambridge without needing to send another application. 

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