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Higher education at 18+

Help for students through Widening Participation policies

Universities are committed to Widening Participation, which means they believe that anyone with the ability who wants to go to university should have the chance to do so, whatever their economic or social background.

Each university wishing to charge tuition fees of more than £6000 a year has to have an 'Access and Participation Plan' approved by the government saying what they plan to do to get more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into their higher education courses – in particular into the country’s most selective universities.

Most universites offer an extensive programme of events and opportunities, as well as scholarships and bursaries. Contact the institution or search online to find out what support they offer.

Check out scholarships through Scholarship Search and other potential sources of funding by visiting the Office for Students.

Contextualised Admissions

Contextual information is widely used by universities to assess a student's achievement and potential in the light of their educational and socio-economic background. Each institution will have its own policy in the way it uses contextual information to assess applications but there are some common themes and potential benefits for students. You can usually find out if you are eligible for contextual admissions by looking at course entry requirements on the university websites. 

If you fit the criteria for contextual admissions you may receive additional support with your application, receive reduced grade offers and access additional support whilst you are studying. Below are some typical examples that universities use to decide if you are eligible:

  • you live in a target postcode area where typical participation in higher education is lower
  • you attend a school or college where attainment is lower than the national average
  • you have experience of being in care or are estranged from your family (not supported by them)
  • you are a carer
  • you have refugee or asylum seeker status
  • your parents serve or have served in the armed forces
  • you are from a gypsy, Roma or traveller background.

What does this mean for you? 

Don't be put off from applying for a course that may require slightly higher grades than you think you will achieve. Universities are very keen to attract students who have the potential to succeed on their courses and will often take into consideration a range of factors.

How will universities decide if you are eligible for contextual admissions?

The admissions team will look at all sections of your UCAS application so make sure you complete it as fully as possible and disclose any information about yourself you feel should be taken into account. They will be able to check the post code of your school and where you live to see if they are target areas and you can also use the personal statement to tell admissions anything about your personal circumstances and background that may be significant.

You can speak to your tutor at school about your UCAS reference and discuss with them if there is anything you feel should be included in support of your application e.g. health reasons, family circumstances or a disrupted teaching experience. 

For more information about contextualised offers visit UCAS.

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