Lucy Cavendish College to become mixed standard age

31 March 2019

Lucy Cavendish College has announced exciting plans to change its admissions criteria to include men and women from the standard university age of 18/19 years old (it is currently one of three women’s colleges at the University of Cambridge, and admits women only over the age of 21 years). The new admissions policy reflects a clear commitment to widening participation and will come into effect from October 2021.

Professor Dame Madeleine Atkins was appointed as the ninth President of Lucy Cavendish College last October. She led a review of admissions amongst alumnae, students and other stakeholders, leading to the in principle vote taken by the Governing Body last week. The primary reason for the change was to grow graduate and undergraduate numbers to support the University and the other colleges in making more places available for excellent students from under-represented backgrounds.

Professor Dame Atkins said:

“The College was founded in 1965 to give mature women the opportunity to study at the University of Cambridge, at a time when women were severely under-represented in the University. Women of all ages now have access to all Cambridge colleges as undergraduates, graduates and Fellows. The demographics of participation in higher education have also changed, and there are now relatively fewer women unable to go to university at 18 or 19, regardless of their background.

As a responsible and forward-thinking organisation, it is now important for Lucy Cavendish College to offer opportunities to excellent students from non-traditional backgrounds, regardless of gender. We have a busy few years of transition ahead, but we are excited at the prospect of growing our College and supporting the collegiate University’s mission to increase access and participation for under-represented groups."

This announcement follows wide consultation amongst stakeholders including alumnae, current students, Fellows, donors and staff (over 2600 people in total). The vast majority of respondents supported the College in ‘going mixed’ and offering opportunities to excellent and talented candidates from additional under-represented groups.

Fellow-Commoner, Professor Lynne Berry OBE said:

“I support this brave and sensible decision for the future sustainability and wider reach of the College.”

Fellow-Commoner, Dr Ann Limb said:

“This review was timely and necessary. I support the direction that the College is taking.”

Current student and alumna, Carina Mouritsen Luxhoj (Natural Sciences, 2013) said:

“I am a current student at Lucy Cavendish as well as having done my previous degree here and I think this is an absolutely brilliant idea! I think it would allow for a massive growth both in the funding of the college and to college life.”

Alumna Emma Thompson (Medicine, 2013) said:

”I support the ambition to widen access to current disadvantaged groups and those from non-traditional backgrounds. This seems like the perfect opportunity to update the original ambition of Lucy Cavendish, in challenging the exclusivity of Cambridge.”

Another alumna, Isobel Cohen (English, 2009) said:

“I support completely the lifting of the age constraint and indeed becoming a mixed College, in the expectation that the community will continue to prioritise the admission of applicants from non-traditional backgrounds and under-represented groups of the University.”

Lectures, laboratories, seminars and supervisions have always taken place in mixed groups. The College has men on its staff and as Bye-Fellows and Senior Associates. Currently men are welcome in the gardens, café and dining area, common room and Library. A small number of current students and alumnae have nevertheless expressed concerns about sharing all physical areas of the College with men and/or with younger students. Lucy Cavendish will be mindful of this concern when planning the transition in more detail. For example, it can provide women-only accommodation for those who request it for personal, cultural or religious reasons and will use its best endeavours to offer a choice of accommodation so that mature students can have rooms in a quieter venue if they wish.

The Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Stephen Toope said:

“Cambridge cannot be an excellent university if it is not open to talent wherever that talent is found, across the UK and indeed from around the world. That is why I welcome the decision by Lucy Cavendish to open its doors to a wider pool of outstanding applicants in the future and grow its numbers of students from under-represented groups.”


About Lucy Cavendish

Lucy Cavendish is currently a women's college for students aged 21 or over. Its undergraduate and postgraduate students 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, Law, Engineering, Veterinary Medicine, Psychology, the Social Sciences and English.

Contact information:

Lucy Cavendish College, University of Cambridge – Kate Coghlan, Head of Communications & Marketing, T: 01223 768426, E:

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