Cambridge University has dropped its high entry requirements to offer 52 students from disadvantaged backgrounds the chance to study at the institution.
The university usually requires A*AA at A level to get on degree courses, but its new one-year foundation course offers places to those who achieve BBB.
The Cambridge Foundation Year course will be fully funded.
The first intake of students will begin in October and then be given the chance to study for a degree.
The university said the programme is part of its bid to increase diversity and encourage students who may not have been able to reach their academic potential due to their circumstances - such as those who have been in the care system, those who have been estranged from their parents, are from low-income households or have attended schools which have traditionally not sent many students to top universities.
Dr Alex Pryce, director of the Foundation Year course, said: "This is the first time in its history that Cambridge has run a pre-degree foundation year programme, aimed at talented applicants who might not otherwise consider applying to study here, and the number of applications we received shows that it is competitive and that there is a clear appetite for it."
Five applications for each available place on the new course were received, compared to six applications for each place on undergraduate courses.
The university said the 52 successful applicants for this year had undergone a "rigorous" application process, including interviews and assessments.
Prof Stephen Toope, the university's vice-chancellor, said: "It is an innovative programme that aims to reach an entirely new field of Cambridge candidates, and to transform lives."
Students who complete the course "with suitable attainment" can progress to degrees in the arts, humanities and social sciences at Cambridge without the need to apply to the university again in the usual admissions round.
Students who complete the new course and do not wish to continue studying at the university, or those who do not reach the required standard, will be helped to find places at other institutions.
In 2021, more than a quarter of new UK Cambridge undergraduate students were from the least advantaged backgrounds and 72% were from state schools.
Lady Margaret Hall in Oxford was the first Oxbridge institution to offer a foundation year for students from under-represented backgrounds when it launched the scheme in 2016.
Update 2 May 2022: This article was amended to make clear the general admissions statistics for 2021 relate to UK students only.