Over the last four years, Religious Studies students have enjoyed considerable success in their applications to read either Theology at the University of Oxford or Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion at the University of Cambridge.
In this time, two-thirds of the talented Religious Studies applicants have been accepted. This is a rate nearly doubles the national average and accounts for almost one quarter of the College’s Oxbridge success across all subjects.
This year, Eva Gray (M) and Elina Smith (W) have secured places at Pembroke and Selwyn respectively; both sit in the top ten of Cambridge’s Tompkins Table, with Pembroke the third highest-performing college, and Selwyn the eighth, in the ranking of its 29 constituents. In short, two of the most academically competitive colleges at the university.
The success of these intelligent and industrious students over recent years is obviously remarkable, but it is not accidental.
Often, successful candidates were considering applying as early as Upper Fourth, providing the College with the opportunity to discuss and select appropriate A-levels that would complement their likely course choices.
Among Religious Studies students, EPQs have been instrumental to proper preparation for the rigour of an Oxbridge education, with students leveraging them to independently explore off-specification topics.
Most importantly though, the Religious Studies Department has been blessed with students who understand that the application is not a hoop-jumping exercise, unlike much of the modern GCSE and A-level system.
Oxbridge admissions tutors are looking for critical thinking abilities, intellectual independence, and originality, which in Religious Studies can only be developed through patient engagement with the ideas of great thinkers, private introspection and analysis, and thoughtful discussion with peers and mentors.
The Library and its dedicated staff, Philosophy Society and its student leadership, and the committed and experienced staff of the Department facilitate this process to the best of their abilities, but these achievements are personal rather than corporate in nature.
The bright young things who head off to Oxbridge each year should rightly take pride in their dedicated and self-motivated engagement with this fascinating academic discipline, and the rich reward of one of the most stimulating undergraduate educations the world has to offer.
Mr George Greenbury, Head of Religious Studies