Contextualised admissions – how it works in practice

Universities and colleges can use contextual information and data to identify applicants who deserve additional consideration in the admissions process. In this series of articles, we aim to dispel the myths around contextualised admissions, and encourage more students to make aspirational applications to higher education.
Posted Wed 24 October 2018 - 16:03

This month, we speak to four higher education providers to find out why contextualised admissions is important to them.

The University of West of Scotland (UWS) prides itself on its diverse student population, and has widened its approach to contextualised admissions. ‘For many applicants, the progression to university can be extremely daunting, especially when they may be the first family member to go into higher education – they may have been in care, or they may not have the financial means to go to university’, said Kirsty Knox, Admissions Manager at UWS.

‘Should academic entry determine whether someone will be successful at university? I don’t believe it should. We take into consideration a range of factors to ensure we are an inclusive organisation, leading the way across Scotland in widening participation.’

Kim Eccleston, Head of Admissions at Warwick University, said: ‘Ensuring Warwick is an accessible, welcoming place for students from all backgrounds and cultures is hugely important to us, and we are continually seeking out ways to help people overcome barriers to participation.

‘One of our eight values – set out in our university strategy – demonstrates our commitment to widening participation, and the significance placed on this important work.’

Access and participation plans in England (Fee and Access plans in Wales, Widening Access and Participation Plans in NI, and Outcome Agreements in Scotland) set out how higher education providers will improve equality of opportunity for underrepresented groups, and in many cases a provider will set targets and measure their widening participation initiatives, to ensure they’re reducing the gap in access to, and progression from, higher education.

‘Operating contextualised admissions contributes both to our ethos of nurturing a diverse student body, and to meeting the targets we have identified and committed to in our Access Agreement’, said Jennifer Geary, Head of Admissions at Goldsmiths, University of London

‘We believe that using contextual information is an integral part of ensuring we operate a fair admissions service for all our applicants. Admitting students in a more nuanced way allows a greater cross-section of society to reach their potential, and makes an important contribution to the Goldsmiths community.’

The University of Bristol recognises the potential of applicants has always been fundamental to its mission to recruit the most able students from the most diverse backgrounds, and has invested significantly in outreach, student support, and progression initiatives.

The university’s UK Student Recruitment Manager, Doug Jennings, said: ‘We believe contextual admissions provide a very clear and transparent pathway to applicants from different backgrounds, and are a fair and legitimate mechanism to use to widen participation.’

What practical steps can advisers take to support their students?

  • Encourage your students to complete all the relevant fields in full in their UCAS application. The contextual information submitted is critical to facilitating contextualised admissions.
  • Use the reference to indicate any further contextual information which might warrant special consideration. This could include individual circumstances –  for example, mature student, disability, widening participation activities, or information about your school which may affect performance, such as significant staff changes, or damage to buildings.

We’ve produced this factsheet (126.89 KB) in conjunction with the Fair Education Alliance (FEA), to explain what contextualised admissions might mean for your students' applications. 

Missed part one of our contextualised admissions interview? Find out how the process works to identify an applicant.



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