This page provides information to support providers with uploading and sharing their activities.

UCAS’ Outreach Connection Service is for providers and third-party providers to showcase their opportunities and be the go-to, single source of truth place for UK teachers and advisers offering an efficient and timesaving online tool for them to support disadvantaged and underrepresented students to higher education.

Any queries or feedback, please email or call 0344 984 1111.

Outreach Connection Service user guide

Criteria for the Outreach Connection Service

For some students, their individual circumstances can have a significant impact on their decision to go to university or college – and on their experience when they are there. Students from underrepresented backgrounds often need extra support throughout their discovery journey and when applying to HE.  

Below is the criteria for the Outreach Connection Service, to help teachers and advisers identify eligible students for the opportunities listed. You can select as many criteria as you need for each opportunity you list. 

Socioeconomic disadvantage
  • Live in a target postcode – you may have a specific target postcode measure such as POLAR or IMD which is used for your outreach activity. You can add more detail in the measures of disadvantage section and free text.
  • Attend a state-funded school or college – state schools and colleges receive funding through their local authority or directly from the Government.
  • Live in social housing – social housing are houses and flats owned by a local government or by other organisations that are rented to people on lower incomes.
  • Currently in receipt of free school meals – young people in the UK are usually eligible for free school meals if their parents or carers are on a low income or in receipt of certain benefits
  • White working class males – this group is generally identified by socioeconomic status measures such as education, income, and occupation.
  • First generation to attend university – first generation students are the first in their immediate family to attend higher education.
  • Homeless and foyer students – people who are homeless and want to progress to higher education may find there are a number of challenges to overcome – such as qualifications, financial issues, and access to expert information, advice, and guidance.
Personal circumstances
  • Students with caring responsibilities – a carer is anyone who has a commitment to providing unpaid care to a family member or friend who could not cope without their support – or intends to provide this support. This may include taking care of a sibling when a parent is unable to do so due to their health needs.
  • Students with parenting responsibilities – this can cover if a student is responsible for the care and wellbeing of a child aged 17 or under. This might mean they are a biological parent, step parent, adoptive or legal parent, a legally appointed guardian, a foster carer or someone who provides kinship or other parental care to the child of a family member or friend.
  • Care experienced young people – being care experienced means someone will have spent time living with foster carers under local authority care, in residential care (e.g. a children’s home), looked after at home under a supervision order, or in kinship care with relatives or friends, either officially (e.g. a special guardianship order) or informally without local authority support.
  • Bereaved students – bereaved students are those who have lost a close family member.
  • Disabled students – a disabled student can mean any student with a physical and/or mental health condition, long-term illness, or learning difference they live with.
  • Students who are estranged from their parents – an estranged person is someone who no longer has the support of either of their parents, and often also other family members, due to a permanent breakdown in their relationship which has led to ceased contact. This might mean your biological, step or adoptive parents or wider family members who have been responsible for supporting you in the past.
  • Prisoners/students with criminal convictions – if a student is currently imprisoned, has been imprisoned during their lifetime or has a criminal conviction.

Identity, culture, ethnicity, and community

  • Gypsy, Roma, Traveller, Showman and Boater communities – the term ‘Gypsy, Roma and Traveller’ encompasses a wide range of individuals who may be defined in relation to their ethnicity, heritage, way of life, and how they self-identify.
  • Black Asian and other ethnic minority students.
  • Refugees, asylum seekers and those with limited leave to remain – in the UK, a refugee is a person who has fled their country, and is seeking protection because of a fear of being persecuted due to their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. An asylum seeker is someone who has applied for refugee status and is waiting to find out if it has been granted.
  • Students from UK Armed Forces/Service children – students who have a parent who currently serves in the regular UK Armed Forces or as a reservist, or has done so at any point during the first 25 years of their life.  
  • UK Armed Forces veterans/Service leavers – students who have served as a Regular or Reservist in the UK Armed Forces (including: the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, British Army, Royal Air Force, or Merchant Mariners who have seen duty on military operations).
  • Speaks English as an additional language.
  • LGBTQ+ students – an LGBTQ+ student is someone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning or other.
  • Mature students – a mature student is defined as those aged 21 or over when they enter higher education.

Performance and behaviour

  • Students with special educational needs.
  • Attainment is typically below average.
  • Students who have been permanently excluded from school.
  • Students who display challenging behaviour at school.


  • Local/commuter students – local/commuter students are those who live in the same travel to work area as their university or college. This includes students who live in a typical commuting distance of their provider.   
  • Remote/rural students – remote/rural students are those who live in rural regions in the UK. They may have reduced access to education services.

Measures of disadvantage

Area based measures in the Outreach Connection Service can help target outreach opportunities. Below are definitions of the area-based measures. 

  • The participation of local areas (POLAR) classification groups areas across the UK based on the proportion of young people who participate in higher education.
  • It looks at how likely young people are to participate in higher education across the UK and shows how this varies by area.
  • POLAR classifies local areas into five groups - or quintiles - based on the proportion of young people who enter higher education aged 18 or 19 years old.
  • Quintile one shows the lowest rate of participation. Quintile five shows the highest rate of participation.
  • TUNDRA (tracking underrepresentation by area) is an area-based measure that uses tracking of state-funded mainstream school pupils in England to calculate young participation. It is an official statistic.
  • TUNDRA classifies local areas across England into five equal groups – or quintiles - based on the proportion of 16 year old state-funded mainstream school pupils who participate in higher education aged 18 or 19 years.
  • Quintile one shows the lowest rate of participation. Quintile five shows the highest rate of participation.

English Indices of multiple deprivation (IMD) is a measure of relative deprivation for small, fixed geographic areas of the UK. IMD classifies these areas into five quintiles based on relative disadvantage, with quintile 1 being the most deprived and quintile 5 being the least deprived.


The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) is a tool for identifying the places in Scotland where people are experiencing disadvantage across different aspects of their lives.


The Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation (WIMD) is the Welsh Government’s official measure of relative deprivation for small areas in Wales. It identifies areas with the highest concentrations of several different types of deprivation. It is a National Statistic produced by statisticians at the Welsh Government.

Supporting disadvantaged and underrepresented groups

As part of the Fair Access Programme, and to further support providers using the Outreach Connection Service, our online guides have been developed in collaboration with providers and expert organisations.

They give examples of the support and good practice available, offer considerations for providers that may not have a defined package of support in place, and explain how providers can make use of current information, whilst preparing for future changes to application data.

Further support to signpost for teachers and advisers

Our experience at UCAS is that students from underrepresented backgrounds often need extra support throughout their discovery journey and when applying to HE. We know they often find it difficult to ask for help, and can feel that if they do, they may be discouraged from accessing education or training.

The Exploring widening access and participation: supporting your students training module explores how to start those conversations with students as early as possible, so they become a normal part of the wider education and careers provision. We look at who the underrepresented groups are, and offer some ways they can be supported to meet their individual needs.

In the optional units, we focus on some of the individual groups and how they can be encouraged and supported through their applications to higher education. These have previously been stand-alone courses, but have been updated and brought together here to enhance your learning.

We also have a range of toolkits, to make sure all your students feel informed and prepared at each stage of their application journey.  We’ve worked with expert organisations to bring together practical tips and useful resources for those who are advising students about their next step