Some students face additional challenges during their education which may impact their results. Universities recognise these challenges, and can make adjustments through ‘contextual admissions’. Find out more about what this is, who is eligible, and how you qualify.

What do we mean by ‘contextual admissions’?

When universities consider your achievements, it helps them to know if you've faced any particular circumstances or challenges that may have impacted your education or results. By looking at your achievements in context, they may adjust their usual offer to give you a fair chance to access your chosen course – these are called ‘contextual offers’. 

The type of offer you receive will depend on the course and provider you apply to. Not every university or college makes contextual offers, so make sure you do your research.

Contextual offers can include:

  • a reduced offer – typically a grade or two lower than advertised in the course entry requirements
  • an offer of a place on a course with a foundation year
  • a guaranteed interview
  • an unconditional offer
  • a course with additional support in place to help you reach your full potential
  • giving your application extra consideration when making you an offer

Supporting diversity

Contextual offers help people from all sorts of different backgrounds to progress to higher education. Universities are diverse environments, and recognise that some people face challenges and have additional priorities. 

Contextual offers aren’t an easy option – universities recognise that your grades and past achievements do not always reflect your true potential, so they give you a fair chance to progress and succeed in higher education.

Who is eligible for contextual offers?

The eligibility criteria will vary from one university to another – it’s important to check before applying.

Examples of circumstances considered:

This is not a full list – some universities consider a range of circumstances, and others may not consider some of the above groups.

How do I find out which universities make contextual offers?

Not all universities make contextual offers, and some only make them for certain courses. They might include this information in their course pages in UCAS' search tool, but check the entry requirements on the university website.

If you're unsure, or can’t find the information you need, contact the university – they will be happy to give you more information and answer any questions. 

How will the university know if I am eligible for contextual admissions?

You can share information about your circumstances on the UCAS application, but universities are also happy for you to contact them with more information if you think it's helpful.

  • Questions about your circumstances – there are several questions in the application which allow you to share information about your circumstances. These have been included so universities can let you know about any support they offer, and can consider you for contextual offers, where available.
  • Extra activities – if you qualify for a contextual offer because you've attended an eligible outreach programme, you can share the details.
  • Your reference –if you're happy for them to do so, your referee (e.g. your teacher) can outline any circumstances that have affected your grades, or any additional challenges you faced. This is a good way to show your achievements in context.

Receiving a contextual offer

Universities don't have to tell UCAS if they've made you a contextual offer. You won’t see anything in your UCAS Hub about it, but they may contact you to let you know. If you’re unsure about an offer or what it means, it’s always best to contact the university.

Receiving a contextual offer does not mean your experience will be any different to other students. In some cases, the university may send you information about how they can help you during your studies – this could be financial help, accommodation, mental health support, or even study support. Again, do your research before you apply to make sure your choices are right for you.

Universities are always happy to talk to students and answer any questions – check the student support pages on their website for contact details.