Helping form a more complete picture of an applicant’s individual characteristics.

Contextual information and data can be used by universities and colleges to assess an applicant’s achievements and potential in light of their educational and socio-economic background. This is called contextualised admissions, and the aim is to form a more complete picture of the characteristics of an individual applicant.

The use of contextual information and data in university and college admissions is now widespread, but the way it’s used and the benefits to applicants can vary enormously. To give you an insight into how it’s used and what support is available, we asked four higher education providers how contextualised admissions works in practice.

How does the process of identifying eligible applicants work?

Why is contextualised admissions so important?

What support is available for students beyond enrolment?

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

With additional services available to relevant students – from help with finance, to study skills and accommodation – many universities provide support throughout the applicant experience. It is so important that 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.

As a teacher or adviser, it’s important to be aware of this practice, so you can give the best advice to your students. Contextualised admissions may encourage aspirational applications to higher education, and can help explain why a student has received a certain offer. It seeks to identify applicants with the greatest potential to succeed on the course. It is also commonly used to inform support provision at other stages of the application process, and once a student has enrolled.

For more information about how a university or college might undertake contextualised admissions, please consult their individual policy, or contact them directly.

To find out how you can support contextualised admissions, view our information and advice on widening participation.