For UK applicants, contextual information is used to gain a more complete picture of the educational and individual context of an applicant. This allows our admissions selectors to assess achievement and potential whilst recognising the challenges an applicant may have faced in their educational or individual circumstances.
What contextual information is used?
The following ten pieces of contextual information, supplied by UCAS will be flagged for the attention of the admissions selector:
1. Time spent in local authority care. This information is self-declared on the UCAS form and verified at a later stage.
2. The performance of the school/college where the applicant took their GCSEs (or equivalent qualification). Specifically, where the school’s or college’s performance is below the national average.
3. The performance of the school/college where the applicant took their A-levels (or equivalent qualification). Specifically, where the school’s or college’s performance is below the national average.
4. The home postcode of the applicant is compared against the POLAR 4 dataset. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) assess how likely young people from different postcodes are to progress to Higher Education. We will flag applicants with postcodes in quintiles 1 and 2 (the 40 per cent least likely to attend university). The Office for Students has a POLAR 4 postcode checker on their website.
5. The home postcode of the applicant is compared against the IMD (Indices of Multiple Deprivation) dataset. We will flag applicants with postcodes in quintiles 1 and 2 (the 40 per cent most deprived areas). The UK Government has this postcode checker for English postcodes on their website. For the IMD classification of Northern Irish postcodes see this postcode checker; for the IMD classification of Scottish postcodes see this postcode checker; and for the IMD classification of Welsh postcodes see this postcode checker.
6. The home postcode of the applicant is compared to CACI’s Acorn dataset. CACI classifies postcodes according to a range of socio-demographic indicators. We will flag applicants with postcodes in Acorn types 40 and above.
7. Participation in an intensive LSE Widening Participation (WP) programme. We will flag applicants who have completed LSE CHOICE, LSE Pathways to Law, LSE Pathways to Banking and Finance, Promoting Potential or the LSE Year 11 Summer School/LSE COMPASS.
8. Participation in any Sutton Trust Pathways programme at any UK university. This includes Pathways to Engineering, Pathways to Medicine, Pathways to Law (in-person or online), Pathways to Banking and Finance (in-person or online), and Pathways to Consulting online.
9. Where a student is known to have been eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) in the previous six years.
10. Other individual circumstances that may have disrupted or adversely affected an applicant’s education and achievement, as outlined in an Extenuating Circumstances Form.
How is contextual information used?
Applicants who have been flagged for the attention of the admissions selector will receive additional consideration. The selector may use this information in the following ways:
- to make an applicant a standard offer where the applicant’s academic record (eg, GCSEs/AS levels or equivalent) or personal statement may be marginally less competitive than the cohort overall
- to make an applicant a standard offer where the applicant is predicted marginally below the usual entry requirements
- when making confirmation decisions for offer holders that have marginally failed to meet the entry criteria (usually this means one grade below the standard entry requirements).
Eligible students (students flagged with a home postcode that is classified as POLAR4 Quintile 1 or IMD Quintile 1, as a care leaver, or a participant in a specified LSE WP programme or a Sutton Trust Pathways programme), may be considered for a contextual offer, where the contextual offer is one or two grades lower than the standard offer for the programme. Any mathematics requirement must still be met.
All academic departments are participating in the contextual offer scheme.
The contextual offer grades are listed alongside the standard offer A-level and IB entry requirements on the relevant programme pages.
Contextual information is used as part of the holistic admissions assessment and applicants are assessed alongside all other similar applicants, therefore having a contextual flag does not guarantee that an offer will be made.