Director of OFFA visits Lucy Cavendish to exchange ideas with staff and students

21 January 2014

Director of the Office for Fair Access to Higher Education (OFFA) Professor Les Ebdon, today visited Lucy Cavendish College, part of the University of Cambridge, and the only women's college in Europe for students aged twenty-one and over. Professor Ebdon’s visit involved meeting some of the students and academic staff to discuss access to higher education, and finding out more about the pioneering work the College is doing to help women achieve their academic ambitions.

OFFA is an independent public body which helps safeguard and promote fair access to higher education, and Professor Ebdon, Director since September 2012, shared his vieProfessor Ebdon meets students at Lucy Cavendish Collegews on the importance of making higher education accessible to all with academic staff and students from the college.

Lucy Cavendish has a diverse student body: at least a third of its first-time undergraduates arrive with Access Diplomas and comparable qualifications, rather than A-levels, and a similar proportion are eligible for Cambridge Bursaries. As a college for students aged over twenty-one and over, it accepts women from a wide range of backgrounds and Professor Ebdon met several undergraduates who had not followed the ‘traditional’ route in higher education – Becky worked as a pastry chef before coming to study here and Gemma was a volunteer editor and contributor to Homeless Diamonds, a magazine written by people housed in St Mungo's hostels in Central London .

Of his visit Professor Ebdon said: "It was a pleasure to hear at first-hand about the excellent work being done at Lucy Cavendish, and to meet the students whose lives are being changed by higher education. I was particularly interested to meet Gemma and Becky and talk with them about how they followed non-traditional pathways to come here. It is an essential aspect of fair access that people who’ve been out of education for a while, including those who may not have formal academic qualifications or who’ve followed vocational routes, are supported to reach their potential. Everyone who has the ability and motivation to go to higher education should have equal opportunity to do so, whatever their background”.

Professor Ebdon at Lucy Cavendish College 21/01/14Following his lunch Professor Ebdon was taken on a tour of the College grounds to hear about the College’s unique history and plans for future developments to support women in education. Director of Admissions for the College, Dr Emily Tomlinson, says:

“Lucy Cavendish was founded by women determined to challenge the exclusivity of Cambridge, and today's students are the living proof that individuals from all backgrounds can study at the highest level. It has been our pleasure and privilege to welcome Professor Ebdon, who has done so much to ensure that universities, across the country, open their doors a little bit wider.”

Notes to Editors: Lucy Cavendish is the only women's college in the country for students aged 21 or over, and a unique part of the University of Cambridge. Its undergraduates and postgraduates come from over sixty countries, and a wide variety of educational and professional backgrounds. Many have changed careers or overcome significant challenges in order to reach University. The College is particularly strong in Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Law, Psychology, the Social Sciences and English. Our President, Professor Janet Todd OBE, is an internationally-renowned scholar of early women writers and author of many biographies and critical works.

To see more photographs of Professor Ebdon's visit to our College click here.

Contact information:

Lucy Cavendish College, University of Cambridge – Jeanette Ariano, Communications & Marketing Manager, 01223 768426

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