Cambridge college offers yoga to help students to Firsts

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The Independent Online

Emmanuel College, Alma Mater of F R Leavis, Griff Rhys Jones and Cecil Parkinson, has been rated the best college for academic performance at Cambridge University.

The college leads the Tompkins table of exam results for the first time since the rankings began 23 years ago.

However, the overall proportion of Cambridge undergraduates achieving first-class degrees fell for the second year in a row while the proportion of those receiving third-class degrees grew.

The table, which is compiled exclusively for The Independent by Peter Tompkins, a partner at the accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, is used by prospective students when they chose a college. It is also closely monitored by the colleges. Mr Tompkins has produced the table since he first compiled it "out of curiosity" as a maths undergraduate at Trinity College in 1981.

The percentage of Cambridge undergraduates obtaining Firsts in this summer's exams fell from 21.7 per cent last year to 21.3 per cent. The number of students awarded Thirds rose from 3 per cent last year to 3.3 per cent. Mr Tompkins said the slightly poorer results might be due to a growing student population, which has risen by more than 15 per cent over the past six years, and the introduction of new courses which have recorded poorer results than established subjects. Mr Tompkins said: "The raw data suggests poorer performance this year than last but it's complicated by the introduction of extra courses.

"For instance, there is now a new fourth-year economics course, for which the results are less good. There are more students, which may also be having an effect."

Dr Richard Barnes, senior tutor at Emmanuel, attributed his college's success to a drive to recruit the best students, whatever their background, and to support them during their studies.

Yoga and aromatherapy sessions were provided this summer in a student-devised scheme to reduce exam stress.

Dr Barnes said: "You don't have to hot-house students, you just need to create a caring and helpful environment for them to work in. We have worked very hard to widen access to the college - increasing the number of people applying and then looking after them as well as we can once they get here."

Christ's College, which has been ranked in the top four since 1992, came a close second this year. Last year's winner, Pembroke, came fourth in the unofficial table, which grades colleges according to the results of all end-of-year undergraduate exams. Five points are given for a First, three for a 2-1, two for a 2-2 and one for a Third. The results are shown as a percentage of the maximum if everyone were to gain a First.

Christ's, however, takes top place on the basis of the numbers of Firsts, 29 per cent, compared with the university average of 21.3 per cent. The most notable rise was at Corpus Christi, which rose from 18th position to seventh.

Otherwise, the results were remarkably similar to 2002,with no other college moving more than a few places. The two all-women colleges were at or near the bottom of the tables. New Hall remained in last place (24th) this year, with 13 per cent of students gaining Firsts. Newnham, the other all-women college, was ranked 21st, up from 22nd last year, with 16.1 per cent of students awarded Firsts.