Academic potential is not always indicated in grades, sometimes personal circumstances can impact academic achievement. Universities are committed to widening participation and improving social mobility in the UK so offer Contextual Offers and Widening Participation programmes to help encourage students from underrepresented groups to attend university.
Contextual offers are a grade reduction below the standard entry requirements for the course. For example, the ordinary required grades might be AAA, but if a student had attended a state school from a lower socio-economic background a contextual offer of ABB could be made based on the individual circumstances of the student. The purpose of contextual offers is to help widen participation at universities and help students from disadvantaged backgrounds get access to higher education.
Who is eligible?
Not all universities offer contextual offers, but the number who do is rapidly increasing. Eligibility varies from university to university but typically you must meet at least one of the following criteria:
- First generation higher education students (the first in their immediate family to attend university)
- Students from low socio-economic groups
- Students from schools with low progression
- Students living in low-participation neighbourhoods
- Students who have spent time in care
- Students who are refugees or asylum seekers
- Students who have participated in Access to University/Widening Participation programmes
How do you apply?
At lots of universities such asNewcastle University and Durham University, admissions tutors screening UCAS applications will flag applicants using information taken from their UCAS application e.g. school name and postcode. They will then process applications and consider if a contextual offer should be made, students don’t need to fill out any application forms. Other universities require a separate application form to be filled in alongside UCAS applications, this can be found on their website.
Universities will either make a contextual offer based solely on the information provided, or they will invite you to complete an Access to University/Widening Participation programme. Successful completion of the programme will result in a lower offer.
The Sutton Trust
The Sutton Trust runs FREE summer and subject specific (Law, Medicine, Engineering, Banking & Finance) programmes for students meeting widening participation and academic criteria. Their programmes offer students the chance to spend a week at a top UK University giving students academic taster sessions, application support and advice. Alumni have gone on to become teachers, MPs, diplomats, radiologists, directors and to work in lots of other professions. Find out more on their website.