University Tips Blog
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by Rob Thatcher

Widening Participation & Outreach Manager at the University of Surrey

posted on 8 Dec '23

Contextual university admissions – what they are, and how they might affect you

When looking at study options in higher education, you will be aware that entry requirements will vary between providers. Generally, most courses will require GCSE plus A Level or equivalent qualifications (for example, BTECs, Access to HE etc.) in addition to evidence of relevant skills, ability, and experience.

It is acknowledged amongst university and course providers that the experience of students in achieving these qualifications and skills will vary, particularly where individuals have shared mitigating and/or personal circumstances that have disrupted their education. In such situations, the course provider may recognise the received or predicted grades against the context - for example, any disruptions in which they were achieved before recommending the applicant if they are eligible to be considered for contextualised admissions.

What are contextualised university admissions?

Contextualised admissions recognise a student’s circumstances when considering their application for study in higher education. This may therefore enable you to automatically receive entry requirements that are lower than those advertised or better reflect the circumstances in which your grades were achieved.

Course providers will set out the terms of their contextualised admissions policy on their website in addition to course literature, and it is always recommended to enquire with admissions advisors and/or tutors with regards to your eligibility before you submit your application.

Contextualised offer schemes

Where reduced entry requirements are not automatically applied, you may be able to participate on a contextualised offer scheme. The key difference is that the scheme will include conditions, in addition to eligibility criteria, which you must meet to qualify for a contextual offer. For example, these schemes may require the completion of an assignment, portfolio, or to simply commit to the respective course provider as your firm UCAS choice.

Contextualised offer schemes are often coordinated internally by the course provider and may be separate to the course application process. It is recommended to enquire with an admissions advisor or course representative regarding the options available for you.

Additional benefits for contextualised admissions and offer schemes

Contextualised admissions and offer schemes may also carry additional benefits, such as academic or financial support. When enquiring about entry requirements, always ask whether bursaries or scholarships are included, along with any transitional support during your first year of study. Transitional support may include academic workshops, peer support or mentoring, in addition to signposting to appropriate services alongside the course.

So, when you are researching your choices and options, keep contextualised admissions within your thinking. They offer a reduced entry requirement, but their benefits can extend beyond your admission onto their course.

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