Following the Government’s announcement at 4pm today, it is Churchill’s intention to confirm places at Cambridge to students who missed their offer as a result of being unable to sit examinations and whose Centre Assessed Grades (CAGs) – previously unknown or released to the colleges – meet the terms of their original offer.  As many places as possible will be confirmed for 2020 and other students will be offered deferral to 2021. The number of places we can confirm in 2020 will depend upon permission being granted to increase subject-managed numbers and within the limit of accommodation that we can provide.*

We are strongly of the view that transparency in the process that is deployed in our admissions process is important and therefore wish to explain the detail of our decision-making prior to this announcement and the numerical outcomes associated with those initial decisions. The following message would have come to you earlier, but was delayed while we waited for further clarification from the Government.

We appreciate the concerns that have been addressed by the Churchill Community (current students, alumni…) and other interested parties with regards to the process of grading A level results this year and the potential impact that this has had on our admissions decisions. Be assured that a huge amount of scrutiny of individuals has gone into the hard decisions we have had to make, recognising that many will still be deeply disappointed during this difficult period, but we most certainly have not been led by a government algorithm, whose validity has been widely questioned.

A diverse and inclusive community is at the heart of Churchill College, as many appreciate and have cited in their communications with us. Our admissions process is wholly centred on the individual student and at least 3 members of the admissions team review each applicant individually at every stage of the decision making process – including results day. 

In the 2020 admissions round, Churchill extended conditional offers to 216 students.  Each year we typically admit 140 students.  This means that on average 1.5 students per place hold a conditional offer prior to receiving their public examination outcomes.  Of these 216 students, 152 were “reporter home” students (permanently resident in the UK).

What does this mean with respect to the “algorithm”? It means that A level results are just one part of many pieces of academic evidence that inform our decision.  We have a large body of additional information on which we can make decisions, including, teacher reference, predicted grades, subject assessments that were actually sat, submitted work, prior attainment, school type, and “flags”.  Flags are not all equal but applicants are “flagged” if they are in the lowest two quintiles (1&2) of POLAR4; they have an index of multiple deprivation (IMD) that is in the lowest two categories; they are eligible for free school meals (self-declared); they are from a low performing- GCSE school and if their school typically sends a low number of applicants to Cambridge / Oxford.  In addition, for schools and colleges in England we also have metrics indicating average levels of attainment for the whole school at KS4 and KS5 so we have a good sense of students’ performance in their educational context.  It is also important to know that individual scrutiny is essential in all of this, there is no one algorithm fits all and there never has been.

Of the 152 conditional offers to students from the UK, 5 students withdrew.  Of the remaining 147 students, 85 directly made their offer and 16 students were reprieved.  Of the 85 who directly made their offer, 42 were students from academies, comprehensive schools, sixth-form colleges and further education establishments. 

In addition, we have made offers to three students from the adjustment pool[1] from widening participation backgrounds.

Of the 44 students who were ultimately declined a place in Cambridge (before today), 21 of these significantly missed their required result in STEP 2 and 3 (paper 2 and 3 in mathematics of the Sixth Term Examination Paper) that was required for entry to the Mathematics Tripos and that was taken via an online examination that was formally proctored. To support widening participation applicants in mathematics, Churchill provided a STEP support programme and provided resources for students to prepare for the assessment, when schools were unable to provide teaching.

Since the results were released on Thursday, the admissions office team have been working throughout with individual students and their supporters to explain in detail their personal outcomes.  Where a Churchill offer-holder who has presently not met our original offer terms goes on to meet them, either on appeal and/or after an alternate sitting of exams they have missed, we will admit them to Cambridge in 2020 or 2021.

In summary, we have currently accepted 136 students in the 2020 admissions round for a place at Churchill, 103 of those are Home students.  Of these 103 accepted students, 17.5% are students who are flagged in the lowest two quintiles of progression to higher education (POLAR4 1 & 2); 19.4% are flagged as IMD 1 and 2. Together this means 28% are students who are flagged in the lowest two quintiles of progression to higher education (POLAR4 1 & 2), or are flagged as IMD 1 and 2, or are flagged with both. 74% of our intake are State School educated and 50% are women for the first time ever in Churchill’s history.

These numbers are now of course subject to change and the change will present significant difficulty for colleges and departments when we are working in parallel to rewrite courses to enable the student experience to continue in a socially distanced way that minimises risk for all of our community.  We are additionally conscious that the drawdown on hardship funds may be significantly higher than usual too.  It will also sadly mean that next year’s cohort of applicants, whose education has arguably been far more damagingly disrupted than this year’s cohort, will likely face much more aggressive competition for entry – since we would potentially have the total number of available places for 2021 entry reduced. Churchill will continue to support our students to the best of our ability and in future admissions decisions will continue to be committed to ensuring that everyone we admit has the potential to thrive in Cambridge, whatever their background.



* We wish to correct that in medicine the government regulates student numbers rather than professional bodies as was previously stated (19.8.20).