contextual admission


Universities should take personal background into consideration during admissions, according to a survey of 1,035 United Kingdom students by the Higher Education Policy Institute. 

The survey revealed that 72 percent of students want universities to consider the applicant’s background during admissions. Most participants or 73 percent recognized the difficulties of achieving higher exam scores when growing up from a disadvantaged area, with those from Russell Group universities showing the most support at 81 percent.

However, opinions were split when it comes to lowering grade offers, with 47 percent in favor and 43 percent against it.

“Contextual offers are the most promising tool universities have for picking students with the most academic potential regardless of background. It is encouraging to see most students recognise educational disadvantage makes it harder to do well and want university admissions to recognise the huge potential of those who achieve against the odds,” said Hugo Dale-Harris, HEPI’s Policy Officer and author of the report.

Giving disadvantaged applicants lower entry offers might be a controversial move by universities. “But there is a secure evidence base for it, as many people underperform at school and college because of their personal circumstances,” said Nick Hillman, HEPI’s Director and writer of the foreword for the report.

“It is good to see that many students recognise the importance of contextual admissions, which can play a key role in universities’ drive to widen access to university by reflecting an applicant’s circumstances and potential,” said an unnamed Universities UK spokesperson.