Contextual offers recognise that academic potential is not always indicated in grades and considers how personal circumstances may have impacted achievement. Universities often offer a grade reduction below the standard entry requirements for the course if you meet certain criteria. For example, the ordinary required grades might be ABB, but if a student had attended a state school from a lower socio-economic background a contextual offer of ABC could be made based on the circumstances of the student.
The purpose of Contextual Offers is to help widen participation at universities and help students from disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds gain 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:
- Students from low socio-economic groups
- First generation higher education student (you’re the first in your immediate family to attend university)
- Students from schools with low university progression / low attainment
- 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 as Newcastle University and Durham University, admissions tutors screening UCAS applications will flag applicants using information taken from their UCAS application e.g. school and postcode. They will then process your application and consider if a contextual offer should be made.
Other times there are separate application forms that have to be filled out alongside your UCAS application. Universities such as the University of Leeds run an Access to University programme where students can either apply directly or can be flagged through their UCAS application. It’s recommended to apply directly to the programmes in case your application is not flagged, so make sure to research the universities you’re applying to.
What is Access to University?
In an attempt to widen participation at university lots of universities run Access to University programmes. These schemes work to attract and support students from underrepresented backgrounds. Some universities require students to take a class which covers core study and subject skills to help them with the transition from school life to university. Completing a scheme can result in additional consideration by universities and can result in a contextual alternative offer. Each scheme differs from university to university so make sure to check the entry requirements for the universities you’re interested in.