Downing College statement on 2020 admissions

Fair assessments of students’ academic attainment at the conclusion of their secondary education is a crucial part of Downing's admissions process. High attainment in public examination, following our assessment of all other aspects of a student’s application, is a pre-requisite for successful navigation of a course at Cambridge.

However this year there were no such examinations and there have been significant and well publicised concerns about the robustness of the emergency A-level grading system. These concerns apply in particular to students from non-traditional backgrounds who may have a markedly stronger academic profile than that of their school - and these are precisely the applicants we continue to work hard to attract through our widening participation activities.

As a result of these concerns, on the day of the release of the results the Downing Admissions Office called each of the applicants who had missed their offer, and their schools, in order to gather as much further evidence as possible regarding academic attainment and context. We are very conscious of the extreme anxiety and uncertainty regarding the A-level grading. Each applicant's circumstances have been considered thoroughly and individually by the College. This flexible approach has ensured that a substantial number of state-educated candidates from non-traditional backgrounds are coming to Downing this year who would have otherwise been rejected by Ofqual's algorithm.

Those applicants whose place it has not been possible to confirm have been encouraged to continue to liaise with the Admissions Office for advice as the detail of the appeals process becomes clearer. We are committed to ensuring that students who would, in a normal year, have met the conditions of their offer are able to come to Cambridge.

Please also see this message from the Vice-Chancellor to 2020 Offer holders.

Published 17 August 2020.