Contextualised admissions – how it works in practice

The use of contextual information and data in admissions can be an effective tool in identifying applicants with the greatest potential to succeed in higher education. We asked four higher education providers how contextualised admissions works in practice.
Posted Wed 30 January 2019 - 12:54

This month, we focus on the support available for students beyond enrolment.

Evidence shows that students from disadvantaged backgrounds do at least as well, and sometimes better, in degree attainment, than comparable groups of more advantaged students.

With additional services available – from help with finance, to study skills, and accommodation – many universities provide support throughout the student experience. It is so important students are aware of all the support they’re entitled to.

Realising Opportunities (RO) is one example of a national programme giving eligible students support during their post-16 studies. Goldsmiths, University of London, and Warwick University are both part of the programme, along with 12 other leading universities. Students are given a dedicated ‘e-mentor’ – a current university student who will guide them through an interactive support programme. Activities include university visits and student conferences, to help them make informed decisions about their futures.

Goldsmiths, University of London also has a portfolio of funding options based on contextual data. Jennifer Geary, Head of Admissions, said: ‘We provide a number of support services for students from underrepresented groups, which include fee waivers for students from the local London boroughs, bursaries to cover travel costs for students from low income backgrounds, and scholarships for disabled students, mature students, care leavers, and applicants coming from Access to HE programmes.

‘There are well-established channels for students to access support while they are on their programmes, and a process for assessing and supporting specific needs.’

Warwick University runs a wide range of events and activities for young people aged between nine and 19, targeted at state school-educated students, students who would be the first in their family to attend university, students from low socio-economic backgrounds, and students who come from neighbourhoods where there is low progression to higher education. Kim Eccleston, Head of Admissions at Warwick, said: ‘Using the information available to us through the application process, allows us to contact applicants and students with information about our specific services available to them at Warwick.’

The Access to Bristol programme provides local students with an unprecedented opportunity to experience life at Bristol University. ‘Our activities are wide-ranging, from working with students from primary school age, to those who may have left the classroom decades ago’, said Doug Jennings, UK Student Recruitment Manager at Bristol, ‘and much of our outreach work is targeted at those who are eligible for a contextual offer.

‘We also have an accommodation bursary, which uses Participation of Local Areas (POLAR) data as one of its criteria.’

Kirsty Knock, Admissions Manager at the University of West of Scotland, said: ‘Applicants are provided with specific text in their offer information about bursaries, additional support if they are a care leaver, disability support, etc.

‘We have a diverse student population, so always endeavour to provide our services on a case-by-case basis, considering each student's unique circumstances, and how to best meet their individual needs.’

Missed our previous contextualised admissions in practice interviews?

  • Find out why contextual data is important to providers
  • Find out how the process works to identify an applicant

For additional information, check out this factsheet, which we’ve produced in conjunction with the Fair Education Alliance (FEA), to explain what contextualised admissions might mean for your students' applications. 

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