This article is written by the Admissions Tutor for Science, Dr Scott Annett, who works within the Admissions Team to help oversee the admissions round each year, as well as assisting with the College’s widening participation and outreach activities. Any queries about widening participation should be directed to  . For a comprehensive overview of this year’s outreach and admissions events, please see the College website.

As was the case in so many areas of society, there is no doubt that we have had plenty of challenges to address over the last 18 months within the world of admissions. Initially, there was the difficulty of dealing with the August 2020 A-level results, followed by the urgent need to deliver a fair and robust online admissions process in December 2020. Notwithstanding these challenges, and we are pleased to report that the College managed to work its way through them as effectively and fairly as possible, we have also been working hard to improve our access and outreach provision.

In February 2020, we were poised to launch several new initiatives in addition to refining some of our longstanding events. Unfortunately, the pandemic derailed many of these plans, and we were forced to pivot very quickly to a virtual outreach programme. Our Schools Liaison Officer, Ruth Moss, has worked extremely hard over the last 18 months to engage as many young people as possible. As part of the university-wide Area Links scheme, Robinson College conducts targeted outreach with four Local Authorities: Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Swindon, and the London Borough of Wandsworth. These regions have a combined total of 102 schools, of which the College interacted with just over a third in the past year. Of those schools that have Sixth Form provision, we worked with close to 60%, which is an increase on previous years and a testament to Ruth’s efforts.

In addition to these specific school contacts, the admissions team also offered a series of larger virtual events, including the Women in Science Festival, to which 157 students signed up; the BAME student life webinar, chaired by the RCSA BME Officer and including several former RCSA BME Officers on the panel; a Teachers’ Conference held by the Admissions Tutors for Science and Arts, and a series of Q+As and Virtual Open Days. In total, Robinson is known to have worked with around 1,930 young people across all events and interactions over the past year, both College-organised and collaborative, all of which were generously supported by our student volunteers, Fellows and Directors of Studies.

While we were disappointed not to be able to offer ‘in person’ events in the usual way, the last 18 months has offered an extremely valuable opportunity to trial online outreach for the first time and there have been some very encouraging results. We were able to reach a broader spectrum of young people than in previous years, engaging with several schools with whom it has previously been difficult to make contact, and there is certainly something to be said for the flexibility, convenience, and low cost of online events.

All of which is to say that, while it is very difficult to reproduce the experience of an ‘in person’ visit to Cambridge, and indeed to Robinson, online events will certainly play an important role in our developing access and outreach strategy for the future. We are now in the fortunate position whereby we can reflect upon the successes of the past year and use that information to formulate a blended programme, combining online opportunities with ‘in person’ events. We are also looking forward to launching some new initiatives, overseen by our recently appointed Tutor for Widening Participation, Dr Lizzi Rawlinson-Mills and supported by both our new Admissions Tutor for Arts, Dr Emily Price, and myself.

In the meantime, admissions interviews in December 2021 will once again be online (see here for more guidance) and the admissions office is always happy to help applicants with questions they might have regarding the process. Should any such questions arise, please contact .