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What is HE+?

HE+ is a collaborative programme between the University of Cambridge and its Colleges, working together with groups of state schools and colleges in 20 regions of the UK. It has been running for over 10 years and in that time we have worked with approximately 25,000 students. In the 2019-20 academic year, over 4,000 Year 12 students in more than 170 schools and colleges participated in the initiative.

The programme provides a framework of support for schools and colleges in a particular region to collaborate to form regional consortia, these consortia then work in partnership to identify highly-able students who have the potential to progress to selective higher education but are perhaps from under-represented areas and backgrounds and therefore would be less likely to progress on to top-tier universities.

The programme is a sustained year-long initiative running from the autumn or spring term of Year 12 through to the autumn term of Year 13. We provide access to super-curricular activities designed to stretch and challenge the students academically and our outreach practitioners also deliver a comprehensive programme of information, advice and guidance sessions and study skills support in order to help ensure students make both a successful application and also a successful transition to highly-selective universities. We also offer a funded visit to Cambridge for a large number of participants each year allowing them to experience university life and meet our students.  

Who is it for?

The University of Cambridge is committed to widening participation to higher education and HE+ is one of our programmes working to deliver this. As such, whilst any prospective participant on HE+ should be academically able to make a competitive application to selective universities, we are also keen to focus that work further and support students who may have experienced either educational disadvantage or belong to a group that is statistically less likely to progress to higher education.

Where places are restricted, first priority on this programme will therefore be given to prospective students according to the following criteria (in order of importance):

  • Students who are in care or care-experienced
  • Students who have been eligible for free school meals in the last six years/ are eligible for or in receipt of the 16-19 bursary/ or are pupil premium students
  • Students who belong to an under-represented ethnic group identified as:
    • Black African or Black Caribbean
    • Pakistani or Bangladeshi
    • Roma, Gypsy or Traveller
  • Students who have experienced disruption in their education such as:
    • Medical/health issues (including mental health), particularly those that have resulted in long or extended periods of absence (over eight weeks) from school in the last six years
    • Bereavement of a close family member (e.g. parent/carer) in the last six years
    • Being a young carer
    • Becoming a parent
    • Being an asylum seeker or refugee
    • Becoming estranged from both primary parents/carers
    • Moving schools more than once in the last six years
    • Other disruption (to be specified)
  • Students from schools with historic low progression to Oxbridge
  • Students who are resident in areas with relatively low participation in higher education (using POLAR4) or in areas with less advantaged socio-economic characteristics (using IMD).

Where does HE+ operate?

HE+ currently operates in the following areas (figures reflective of the 2019-20 academic year):

Regional Area
(No. of consortia)
Name of Consortia
(No. of schools involved)
Northern Ireland (1) Belfast (5)
Wales (1) Swansea (7)
North West (4) Lancashire (7), Manchester (9), Merseyside (10), Wigan & Warrington (7)
North East (1) Tyneside (11)
Yorkshire & the Humber (4) Huddersfield (5), Hull & East Riding (11), Leeds & Wakefield (7), Rotherham (5)
West Midlands (4) Coventry (9), Herefordshire (5), Stoke (6), Worcestershire (9)
East Midlands (2) Nottingham Central (10), Nottingham North (14)
South West (2) Bristol (9), Somerset (10)
South East (1) Hampshire (13)

Can my school join the HE+ programme?

In the same way that HE+ is designed as a programme that delivers sustained engagement with Year 12 students, we also seek to maintain long-term relationships with our partner schools. Changing school partners in the programme is therefore uncommon, however, we are aware that there are many more schools who could benefit from HE+ than we currently work with and we are always open to discussing the possibility.

As such, if you are a teacher or school leader interested in becoming involved with the HE+ programme please email the HE+ Team on heplus@admin.cam.ac.uk.

We are particularly keen to build relationships with state schools who can evidence the following characteristics:

  • Schools that have a record of high achieving students
  • Schools with an above national average percentage of students in receipt of FSM
  • Schools with an above national average percentage of students who live in POLAR 4 and/or IMD quintiles 1&2
  • Schools with a history of low progression rates to Oxbridge
  • Schools with a history of low progression rates to Top-Third universities