Our Outreach Campaign

St Catharine’s is committed to attracting the very best applicants from all backgrounds. In partnership with the University, we work to make sure that the most talented young people in the UK and across the world know that they can flourish and fulfil their potential at Cambridge. Once our students arrive, we ensure that they are able to participate fully in College life and benefit from all that a Cambridge education can offer.


Brilliance without barriers

St Catharine’s prides itself on its ability to attract bright minds, and in the last four years applications to study at undergraduate level have risen steeply. Our recruitment achievements reached new heights in October 2017, when we received the highest number of applications relative to student places amongst all Cambridge colleges.

Our success in attracting applications means we must be prepared to help students of all educational and social backgrounds as they seek to fulfil their potential while here. We are committed to promoting access and diversity, so that the College is representative of the society it serves. We share the University’s commitment to ensuring that financial barriers should not be a deterrent for those applying to Cambridge.

We want to build on the extensive work of our Schools Liaison Officer, and encourage applications from any student who has the potential to thrive at one of the world’s best universities.

In common with all Cambridge colleges, St Catharine’s has a fair and rigorous admissions process. Competition for places is fierce: using extensive data, we ensure that we are able to select the best and brightest students, regardless of background. Decisions are made purely on the basis of academic potential.

Investing in future potential – Outreach work     

St Catharine’s is committed to widening participation in higher education – supporting candidates who might not otherwise apply to the College, and also encouraging young people to aim high in their education, wherever their university future may lie.

Our Outreach work is ambitious, varied and far reaching, so the Cambridge colleges have divided the UK into ‘link areas’. St Catharine’s works with around 120 schools in Suffolk, Rutland and North Yorkshire, and we frequently conduct events with schools outside those areas as well. 

The College regularly hosts groups for day visits as well as our Schools Liaison Officer visiting schools further afield. The College runs subject ‘taster days’ and Open Days throughout the year. In 2019 Taster Days were held in MML, History, Medicine and Theology. These events allow pupils to meet academic staff, to speak to current students and also give them a chance to sample the academic side of St Catharine’s – and hopefully realise it is a welcoming and academically accessible environment. 

Each year the College spends in excess of £60,000 on access and widening participation work, including the salary of a full-time Schools Liaison Officer and support for travel and hosting students at the College. The College seeks support from individuals who appreciate the transformative impact a Cambridge education can have on the life course of the ‘brilliantly bright’ student who has no idea how Cambridge can fulfil their academic potential and, indeed, how in turn their intellectual capital can be appreciated by the university.

A single gift of £1.5 million would endow widening participation at St Catharine’s and could carry naming rights. We are seeking a group of individuals from whom we can collectively raise these funds as at this stage it is not envisaged that a single philanthropist would make this level of commitment and so we are looking for wide ranging gifts, large and small, which will collectively meet this amount.

An overview from the Admissions Tutors

St Catharine’s is committed to encouraging applications from academically strong students of all backgrounds. A fair admissions system should be accessible to as wide a range of applicants as possible. Only by taking account of applicants’ previous academic experiences can we admit those with the greatest future potential.

Once students have applied to us, we are confident that we can take full account of the educational opportunities each has had in the past. For example, we receive large amounts of contextual data on our applicants’ schools, socioeconomic backgrounds and their own educational journeys. Also, we believe that Cambridge admissions interviews can be, contrary to what many might expect, a great ‘leveller’ between candidates from different backgrounds.

However, we worry that many academically strong candidates do not apply to Cambridge because they have been instilled with low educational and career aspirations, have not been encouraged to apply, or simply worry that they will not ‘fit in’ or that the University of Cambridge is not for them. Thus, we believe the key to widening access to Cambridge is encouraging applications from able candidates who would not otherwise consider it.

Achieving this aim takes a lot of work, and this is why St Catharine’s invests so much in access work. We employ a full-time Schools Liaison Officer – the current post-holder is an ex-Cambridge student hailing from a region with a history of sending few students to this university. She has a busy schedule visiting schools, inviting students to college for ‘taster’ sessions, and inspiring hard-pressed schools to make their pupils’ future educational paths a priority.

Sometimes, all it takes is one person to sow the idea in a teenager’s head that they have the ability to aim high in their educational future – and make Cambridge one of their five UCAS choices. And often that person is our Schools Liaison Officer.

DR DAVID BAINBRIDGE & DR IVAN SCALES, Admissions Tutors, Michaelmas 2019 


The Master and Fellows would be delighted to receive your gift in support of our Outreach work.

We look forward to receiving your written instructions with your donation.