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Undergraduate Study

 
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Croeso i Caergrawnt!

Photo of JonathanJonathan Padley, Admissions Tutor at Churchill College (one of Cambridge’s Area Links Colleges for Wales), has written this webpage to present information that you, as a potential applicant from Wales, will hopefully find helpful. Jonathan’s work on this has benefitted greatly from the expertise of Sandy Mill (Churchill's Widening Participation Officer).

 

At Cambridge, we are committed to attracting the best students from all over the UK, including Wales. Our first HE+ hub outside England was in Swansea and became an important template for Welsh Government’s Seren, which Cambridge researchers helped set up and to which the University now regularly contributes. Increasing numbers of Welsh students have applied to Cambridge recently and we really welcome this. We want to admit more representative UK cohorts.

Entry requirements

Most Welsh students who apply to read Cambridge degrees take GCSEs and A Levels. Unlike some universities, Cambridge does not convert these (or any other qualifications) into UCAS Tariff Points. Also, we do not normally set offers based on the Welsh Baccalaureate Advanced Skills Challenge Certificate (ASCC). Instead, our entry requirements are typically based upon three A Levels.

To find out more, select your target degree from our Course List then look at the Entry Requirements tab. Note that “typical offers” can sometimes vary from College to College, so make sure to check out the by-College list of entry requirements that is available on the same tab. If you are in any doubt, head over to College Contacts and reach out to an Admissions Office for advice.

Foundation Year

If you want to study an Arts, Humanities, or Social Sciences degree but you have not been able to study the A Levels that our degree requires, you might be eligible to apply for our Foundation Year in Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. Additional information, as well as a full list of eligibility criteria, can be found on our Foundation Year profile page.

The application/admissions process

You can find detailed information about Cambridge and how to apply on our Undergraduate Study website. Applications are made via UCAS.

Student finance

Welsh students applying to Cambridge often have questions around student finance and the support available to help pay for tuition and maintenance costs. There’s lots of information about this on the University’s Fees and Finance webpages.

At Cambridge, we have a principle that no suitably qualified “home fee” student should be deterred from taking up a place at Cambridge by their financial circumstances. All UK entrants are considered for the Cambridge Bursary Scheme, which is offered dependent upon household income and does not have to be repaid. For more information about the Cambridge Bursary and other Cambridge funding opportunities, head to Financial Support.

Support is also available for Welsh students from Student Finance Wales (SFW).
The SFW website has lots of information about this and can give you an indication of how much you may be able to borrow for living costs.

Travel information

At Cambridge, there are three terms a year. Most undergraduates stay in Cambridge for the full eight weeks of term, with very few occasions when they might return home. Other than if there are exceptional circumstances therefore, students only travel to and from Cambridge at the start and end of each term.

We are conscious that some Welsh students may have relatively longer journeys to get to Cambridge than others in the UK – comparable, for instance, with students from Scotland. We have included a few examples here of approximate travel times, which you can use to estimate your own circumstances.

Trains: Rail journeys to Cambridge include those from Bangor (5 to 7 hours), Haverfordwest (a little less than 7 hours), and Aberystwyth (6 to 7 hours). Each of these requires a few changes. Wrexham to Cambridge can be done in as little as 4 hours but typically takes over 5, and Newport to Cambridge takes 3 hours 30 minutes.

Driving: As with rail, the further west you come from, the longer it will take you to get to Cambridge. With limited traffic, you can drive to Cambridge from Milford Haven in 6 hours, and from Holyhead and Lampeter in 5 hours. Starting points further east take considerably less time.

Frequently asked questions

What are UMS and why are they important?

In Wales, AS and A Levels are not linear like in England. Instead, they are modular or “unitised”, with grade boundaries expressed on a uniform mark scale (UMS). UMS grade boundaries remain the same each year, so – for example – 80% UMS typically represents the boundary of grade A. However, in qualifications like AS Level which only go up to grade A, this means that any UMS in the range 80% to 100% will be graded A. That’s a very big score range, masked by a single grade.

For any AS and A Level modules you take therefore, Cambridge will ask for your UMS scores, because these give us more detailed information about your attainment than your grades alone. This extra data is really helpful because evidence has shown that students with consistently excellent UMS scores across their AS and A Level subjects are likely to thrive in Cambridge degrees.

Why doesn't Cambridge include the ASCC in its offers to Welsh students?

Whilst Cambridge welcomes Welsh Baccalaureate’s overarching focus on essential and employability skills, the specific skills and knowledge that the Cambridge admissions process assesses are academic. Accordingly, if you are taking the Advanced Welsh Baccalaureate, our main interest will be in your three A Levels, not your ASCC.

Within the ASCC, the Individual Project is normally the most relevant component to Cambridge applications, since students often use it as an opportunity to dig into the subject(s) they want to study for their degree. In this way, the Individual Project has similar benefit to an EPQ, in that it helps to develop independent study and research skills that are valuable for university-level education.

My school or college doesn’t offer A Level Further Maths but it’s important for my target degree. What should I do?

At Cambridge, there are a few degrees for which A Level Further Maths is either mandatory or taken by the great majority of entrants. If you want to study one of these degrees, make sure to speak with your school or college early on, to ask whether A Level Further Maths can be made available to you.

If your school or college can’t offer Further Maths, please discuss with them the prospect of you undertaking it independently with their support, at another local centre, or with support of the Welsh Government funded Further Maths Support Programme Wales.

Welsh is my main language and/or I’m educated through the medium of Welsh. Does this affect my application?

Cambridge is an internationally recruiting university so a considerable proportion of our applicants each year have main languages and/or languages of education that are other than English, including Welsh. However, all Cambridge courses are delivered through the medium of English so our entrants, wherever they are from, must show throughout our admissions process that their English is of a sufficient standard to thrive here.

In practice, you’ll complete your application, any relevant assessments, and any submitted written work in English – though you are welcome to send Welsh written work that you’ve translated into English, in which case please just ask your school to sign off on your translation. Your interview(s) will also be in English and a good standard will be expected, to show you can express and describe your ideas and thoughts. However, don’t worry if you find you encounter a language wrinkle, like a technical word that you know in Welsh but not in English. If something like this happens, just explain your hesitation to your interviewers and talk them through the concept. Such issues are minor, not uncommon, and can readily be worked through.

As an aside, because Cambridge will receive your application in English, it will not necessarily be obvious to us that Welsh is your main language and/or language of education, unless you or your UCAS referee explicitly tell us somewhere in your application. You don’t have to do this, of course, but such contextual information is often helpful.

What information does Cambridge receive about my home area and educational context? Should I share more?

Cambridge is committed to ensuring that we offer admission to students of the highest academic potential, irrespective of social, racial, religious, and financial considerations. To achieve this, each applicant is considered individually in a holistic assessment using all the information available to us. As part of this process, the University reviews additional information that provides a more complete picture of the educational and social circumstances that underpin students’ applications, academic performance, and performance in our assessments. You can read more about this on our Contextual Data webpage.

Generally, in respect of any such contextual information, the more we may know about you, the better we can understand your application. We’d therefore encourage you to declare as much relevant information as you feel comfortable with, especially in respect of your individual and educational circumstances that cannot be derived from postcode-level data.

Please also make your UCAS referee aware that we do not routinely receive information on the typical GCSE and A Level performance of Welsh schools and colleges, and whether any or all of their teaching is through the medium of Welsh. We therefore especially appreciate it when Welsh UCAS referees provide such data, including quantitative details about your placement in your cohort.

What are super-curricular activities and why are they important?

Super-curricular is different to extra-curricular. Extra-curricular activities are those outside of your chosen topic and unrelated to your studies, whereas super-curricular activities take the subjects you study further, beyond what you have learnt at school or college.

Super-curricular activities are not mandatory to apply for university. However, if you’re considering a competitive-for-entry university like Cambridge, with considerably more than one very highly-qualified applicant per place, super-curriculars will undoubtedly enhance your application. Super-curricular participation could help develop your personal statement, give you greater confidence in your subject choices, show that you are serious about your area of study, identify you as high-performing within relevant competitions, and give you a wealth of ideas to draw upon in discussions if you’re invited to interview. In short, we strongly recommend it.

And, just to be clear, super-curriculars don’t need to be costly. Check our Super-Curricular Activities page for some initial ideas.

Does College choice matter?

There are 29 undergraduate Colleges at Cambridge, including two that only admit women, and three that only admit mature students (aged over 21 at point of entry). Prospective applicants are welcome to apply to whichever College they wish, or make an Open application and be allocated to a College by a computer algorithm. You can find advice at Choosing a College.

As stated above, in the Entry Requirements section, “typical offers” and subject requirements can vary from College to College. Make sure to check out the by-College list of entry requirements that can be downloaded from your target degree’s course profile page.

What is the Area Links Scheme and do I have to apply to one of my Area Link Colleges?

Cambridge runs an Area Links Scheme, so schools and colleges in each UK area have a specific College contact point at the University. For Wales, the Area Link Colleges are Churchill (South Wales and Powys) and Magdalene (North Wales and Ceredigion), so these Colleges have particular experience of running educational outreach in Wales and working with Welsh schools, colleges, and Seren. However, you do not need to apply to one of these Colleges, unless you want to. Again, the choice is entirely yours.

Can I work during term time?

Cambridge terms are relatively short but also intense, so undergraduates are generally encouraged not to undertake part-time work during term. However, all students are welcome to work during the vacations, should they wish, and there is financial support available if money is a concern. Check out our Financial Support pages for more information.

Do I have to take my stuff home at the end of each term?

As undergraduates tend to live in College-owned accommodation throughout their studies, you will likely need to vacate your room between terms - hence the reason our holidays are referred to as “vacations”. Colleges are often able to provide storage if required, though this can be limited. Make sure to speak with your College about storage in advance therefore, if it’s something that you would find helpful – and particularly, perhaps, if you have an arduous journey to get back home.

What's it like to be Welsh at Cambridge?