Use of contextual data: 2020 applicants

If you are a UK applicant under the age of 21, or have been in-care for more than 3 months, we will use contextual data alongside your undergraduate application in order to build up a full and rounded view of your achievement and potential. The University wants to ensure that all applicants with the potential to be successful students here have equal opportunities through our selection process.

What constitutes contextual data?

Contextual data is simply additional information considered by our admissions decision-makers alongside your UCAS form. We do not make decisions on the basis of this information alone.

We use four pieces of contextual information, where available. They are 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, using the HEFCE POLAR4 Low Participation Neighbourhood (LPN) data and ACORN information (a system that assigns specific geo-demographic profiles to individual UK postcodes).*
  2. Whether you have been looked after or in care for more than three months.
  3. The performance of the school or college where you took your GCSEs or equivalent qualifications.**
  4. The performance of the school or college where you took your A-levels or equivalent qualifications.**

* You meet the Geo-demographic indicator if your postcode falls into ACORN categories 4 or 5, or POLAR4 LPN category 1. This does not 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 Geo-demographic indicator your application will receive a WP Flag. NB. If you are currently residing at a boarding/residential school you are not 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 have been in care for more than 3 months, your application will be looked at in the same way as someone who receives the 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 flagged applicants are assessed against non-academic criteria, consideration will be given to the evidence that decision makers are looking for within each criterion. For example, candidates 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: Where a particular student has been flagged, interviewers may take into account that such applicant may be from a home and/or educational background where there may be less opportunity to access practice interviews, coaching, guidance and other preparation
  • Confirmation and clearing: When the offer conditions are not 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/In-care Indicator and differential offers

We recognise that the preparation students receive before applying to university can depend on personal 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 differential offer. Contextual data differential offers are usually one grade lower than the standard offer.

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

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

  • You meet the criteria for a WP Plus Flag or have been in care for a minimum of 3 months prior to application.
  • The qualifications and subjects you are 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 are applying for a course where the minimum entry requirements are ABB and the course must not be a Faculty of Science & Engineering  foundation course (F008 or H108).
  • 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 e.g. interview or aptitude test (eg UKCAT for Medicine).

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

When you are made a lower offer, you will also be made a standard offer. This is known as a dual offer. The lower offer will only apply if you select the University of Manchester as your firm choice. The Academic School you are applying to will decide how the standard offer is lowered e.g. 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 are applying with achieved qualifications, you will receive the same consideration but instead of a dual offer, you will be made an unconditional offer. 

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

The information used to decide whether you are eligible for a contextual data differential offer is based on information provided through your UCAS 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 by the relevant Academic School.

Access eligibility

Please note, 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 MDAS could be eligible for a reduced offer of up to 2 grades.


Please note that mitigating circumstances do not fall under contextual data.  Information for applicants with mitigating circumstances can be found on our How to Apply page.

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