Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

Outreach and widening participation

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  • No-one from my family had attended university, and so coming to Cambridge (from a small town in Yorkshire) was both a challenging and life-enhancing experience. What I learned was the importance of education to what you can achieve. Education can be both fulfilling and inspirationally transformative. It allowed me to succeed in many ways that I had never anticipated and I am wholeheartedly committed to the principle of educational progression based on academic ability rather than on class background, colour or religion.

    Ros Smith, alumna and donor

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    Murray Edwards College has a long tradition of welcoming students from all backgrounds. We want to ensure that young women with outstanding academic potential have the knowledge, confidence and determination to apply to top ranking universities. Over the last 4 years the proportion of UK students joining the College from state schools has been: 64%, 61%, 74%, 64% (most recent first). We are pleased to support the University's agreement with OFFA and we aim to contribute to further developments in support of widening participation.

    Widening participation is a complex issue. Our own approach has been informed by research evidence, noting:

    • The importance of role models to inform and inspire
    • The under-representation of young women in some STEMM subjects
    • The importance of self-belief and an openness to 'risk' for those aiming high

    Our full programme of activities includes events open to all schools in the UK. The following activities make a particular contribution to outreach and widening participation:

    Pathways to Success

    An overnight conference for outstanding young women from year 12. Encourages those attending to feel confident in their own abilities and choices, and to aim high by using workshops and role models.

    STEMM blog and Aiming High Conference

    A blog and one day conference for young women scientists in years 11 and 12. Encourages schools and their female students to get involved in an online discussion about science through role models, competitions and research items.

    Aspiration Days

    Workshops on aiming high for students (mixed) from years 10 and 11 followed by the opportunity fo explore Cambridge. Encourages younger students to engage with what universities in general and Cambridge in particular have to offer.

    Gateway Programme

    We know that the transition to Cambridge is demanding and that students welcome help with this process, particularly if they come from schools or families with little experience of higher level studies.Our popular Gateway Programme helps all students to understand how to adapt quickly and effectively by discussing how to use supervisions, the nature of good work, recording practical work etc.

    We also know that while internships and work placements can play an important role in securing future graduate roles some students will have limited professional networks on which to draw. To help all students we work with alumnae to provide a series of work placements and useful connections (within the Gateway Programme).


    In association with the University of Cambridge central admissions team we link with Manchester schools in the HE+ initiative. A highlight of this partnership is an overnight visit to the College from around 90 gifted and talented Manchester students.  The visit includes talks and workshops on applying to Cambridge, interviews and academic taster sessions.

    Local Area Links

    Our link areas within the University of Cambridge Area Links Scheme include: Manchester, Derbyshire, Haringey.

    We are in communication with schools in these areas each year. Our School Liaison Officer visits many schools in these areas and they also engage with a number of the activities listed above.