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What do students think about contextual admissions?

  • 25 July 2019
  • By Hugo Dale-Harris
  • HEPI number Policy Note 14

Contextual admissions have been hotly debated for years, but the Office for Students recently complained, ‘There has been minimal research on students’ views of contextual offers.’ To fill this gap, HEPI conducted the first major study into what students think of this issue.

Key findings in the report include:

  • three-quarters of full-time undergraduates (73%) think it is harder to achieve good exam results if you grow up in a disadvantaged area – and support is highest at Russell Group, where 81% believe this;
  • most students (72%) also think higher education admissions should take account of applicants’ backgrounds;
  • around half of students (47%) back lower grade offers to those from disadvantaged areas, while nearly as many (45%) oppose the idea – at the most selective universities, a majority (57%) support lower grade offers while 36% oppose them;
  • a minority of students (28%) think contextual admissions would make it ‘harder for students like me’ to get into university, while a majority (53%) disagree;
  • two-thirds (65%) of students do not know if their own university makes contextual grade offers and just 16% are certain that it does; and
  • most students (54%) think those admitted with lower grades would be able to keep up with the course requirements, but four-in-ten students (38%) do not.

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