Use of contextual data

If you're a UK applicant under the age of 21, or have been in care for more than three months, we'll use contextual data alongside your undergraduate application in order to build up a full and rounded view of your achievement and potential.

Below is more detailed information on what data we use and where it comes from. It might be of particular interest to teachers, career advisors, professional bodies and applicants who would like to know more.

What data do we use?

We use four pieces of contextual information, where available. They're drawn from your UCAS application form and used alongside publicly available datasets to provide the following information:

  1. The postcode that you have provided as your home address. We check your postcode against two datasets  HEFCE POLAR4 Low Participation Neighbourhood (LPN) data (which looks at areas of the country with low progression into higher education) and ACORN information (a system that assigns profiles to individual UK postcodes). This is also referred to as a geo-demographic indicator.*
  2. Whether you've been ‘looked after’ or ‘in care’ for more than three months. You will be asked this on your UCAS form and should answer 'yes' if you've spent time in local authority care living with foster carers, in a children's home or if you've been 'looked after' at home under a home supervision order in Scotland.
  3. The performance of the school or college where you took your GCSEs or equivalent qualifications. This data is collected directly from the Department for Education (England), Department of Education (Northern Ireland) and the Welsh and Scottish governments.**
  4. The performance of the school or college where you took your A-levels or equivalent qualifications. This data is collected directly from the Department for Education (England), Department of Education (Northern Ireland) and the Welsh and Scottish governments.**

* You meet the geo-demographic indicator if your postcode falls into ACORN categories 4 or 5, or POLAR4 LPN category 1. This doesn't apply if your home address is that of your boarding/residential school.

** You meet an education indicator if your school or college has performed below the national average across multiple years.

For detailed information about the use of contextual data at Manchester, download the following documents:

Explaining contextual flags

If you meet the postocde indicator your application will receive a WP flag. If you're currently residing at a boarding/residential school you aren't eligible for a WP flag.

An additional flag is produced if you also meet at least one of the education indicators. This is known as the WP Plus flag.

If you've been in care for more than three months, your application will also receive a WP Plus flag.

WP flag

If you receive a WP flag and meet our standard academic entry criteria, we recommend your application for further consideration by admissions tutors. This includes

  • Personal statement  when being assessed against non-academic criteria, consideration will be given to the evidence that decision-makers are looking for within each criterion. For example, you may not have had equal access to participate in extra curricula activities or to gain specific work experience, or may not have had guidance from advisors experienced in dealing with students applying to selective universities such as Manchester.
  • Interview  interviewers may take into account that you may be from a home and/or educational background where there may be less opportunity to access practice interviews, coaching, guidance and other preparation.
  • Offers – for certain courses, if your predicted grades are below our minimum entry criteria you may still be considered and made an offer at the standard entry requirements. For example, if the entry requirements for your chosen course are ABB and your predicted grades are BBB you may be made an offer of ABB.
  • Confirmation and clearing  when the offer conditions aren't met, admissions tutors may look closely at flagged applicants and consider these again at the point of confirmation. Flagged applicants may also be highlighted as potential students for whom internal clearing opportunities could be suitable.

WP Plus flag and contextual offers

We recognise that the preparation students receive before applying to university can depend on social and socio economic circumstances, such as the educational opportunities you’ve had prior to application. The University therefore uses the WP Plus flag to highlight students who could be made a contextual offer. Contextual offers are usually one grade lower than the standard offer.

We will determine whether you'll be made a lower offer when we receive your application, so you don't need to do anything differently.

You'll receive a lower offer if you meet all of the following: 

  • You meet the criteria for a WP Plus flag
  • The qualifications and subjects you're applying with meet our published entry requirements. For example, if a course requires Chemistry and Maths you must be taking both of these subjects.
  • You're applying for a course where the minimum entry requirements are ABB and the course must not be a Faculty of Science and Engineering foundation course.
  • Your predicted grades are within two grades of our minimum entry requirements. For example, your predicted grades are BBB where the standard entry requirements are AAB.
  • You successfully complete any additional selection requirements such as an interview or aptitude test (eg UCAT for Medicine). 

Our contextual data differential offers apply to level 3 qualifications. Some Schools may also extend this to level 2 qualifications, for example, where there are specific GCSE requirements.

The School you're applying to will decide how the standard offer is lowered eg you may still be required to attain a specific grade in a specific subject. This information is provided in our entry requirement fact files and will be outlined in the offer you receive from us.

Where you're applying with achieved qualifications, you'll receive the same consideration but instead of a conditional offer, you'll be made an unconditional offer.

If you're undertaking resits, please contact the School you're applying to as some Schools have specific resit policies.

The information used to decide whether you're eligible for a contextual offer is based on information provided through your UCAS application and we will only consider the information provided at the point of application. It is therefore important that this information is accurate as any incorrect information could affect the status of your offer. Applications with missing or unknown data will be dealt with on a case by case basis.

Access eligibility

Students who are undertaking the Manchester Access Programme will not be eligible for a lower offer as they already receive a reduced offer of up to two A-level grades (or equivalent).

Students who complete other access programmes (Manchester Distance Access Scheme, Pathways to Law, Pre-University Social Sciences Courses) are still eligible for the lower offer in addition to the reduced offer gained as a result of completing a programme, eg an applicant with a WP Plus flag who has completed Manchester Distance Access Scheme could be eligible for a reduced offer of up to two grades.

Applicants need to meet our specific contextual data criteria and would not receive a contextual offer due to mitigating circumstances or as a result of a disability or medical condition. However, support is available for individuals in these circumstances and we have further information on how to apply and our Disability Advisory and Support Service.

If you have any queries relating to contextual data, please email: