Frequently asked questions

Find answers below to some of the more commonly asked questions about how The University of Manchester uses contextual data.

What is 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.

What data does the University use?

Where available we use four pieces of contextual information. We get these from details on your UCAS application and from publicly available sets of data to provide us with 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 have 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 have spent time in in local authority care living with foster carers, in a children's home or if you have 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.

Why is the University using contextual data?

At The University of Manchester we aim to ensure that there are opportunities for all applicants irrespective of personal circumstances or background.  We recognise that certain applicants may have previously faced social, socio-economic or educational disadvantages and the use of contextual information gives admissions tutors a fuller understanding of an applicant's potential to succeed in the context of these barriers. 

Why have the measures used been chosen?

We have chosen information that we are able to validate and have used publicly available datasets to ensure transparency.  

We acknowledge that there are challenges in using area-based indicators or analysing school performance data and we are committed to constantly monitoring, updating and improving data sources.

I come from a low-income family. Will this be considered?

As this information is not collected via the UCAS form and is not easily verifiable we do not take this into account when flagging applicants for contextual data.  However, you may be eligible for extra financial support through the Manchester Bursary.

Does contextual data apply to everyone?

Contextual data is only applicable to UK applicants who are under the age of 21 on 1 September in their year of entry. This is due to the availability and comparability of data. It will also be applied to applicants over the age of 21 who have been in care for more than 3 months.

As comparable contextual data is not available for non-UK domiciled students, if you are living outside the UK you should highlight any relevant socio-economic factors or individual adversity in your UCAS personal statement and ask your referee to include this in their reference.

Contextual data is less relevant for applicants over the age of 21 due to the gap between completing secondary and post-16 education and applying to university. Also, educational indicators are based on the most recently available school performance data and are therefore not valid for those who have been away from education for a number of years. Mature applicants should therefore contact the relevant Academic School for guidance on how their application will be considered.

How is contextual data flagged?

We assign WP (Widening Participation) flags to applications depending on the different contextual information.

WP Flag – this will be assigned if your postcode shows that you live in a disadvantaged area or area of low participation in higher education.

WP Plus Flag – this additional flag will be assigned if you meet the criteria for the above geo-demographic indicator and also attended a school or college that performed below the national average for GCSE or A-level (or equivalent qualification).

If you have indicated on your UCAS form that you have been in care for more than three months your application will be looked at in the same way as someone who receives the WP Plus flag.

How will I know if I'm eligible?

You can check your home postcode using our lookup tool to see if you would meet the criteria for the geo-demographic indicator. We publish a list of schools and colleges (PDF document, 5MB) so that you can check whether your school/college(s) meet the criteria for an education indicator.

What if I can’t find my postcode or school in the look-up tool?

Applications with missing or unknown contextual data will be dealt with on a case by case basis by the relevant Academic School. You do not need to notify us of this as we will receive the required information when you submit your application through UCAS.

Do I need to submit more information?

No, applicants will not need to submit any additional data to the University.

What is Manchester offering students who are flagged through contextual admissions?

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 flagto highlight students who should be given additional consideration, for example:
    • additional examination of the personal statement, taking into account that candidates may not have had equal access to participate in extra-curricular activities or to gain specific work experience;
    • making interviewers aware of the applicant’s background and asking them to consider whether the applicant may be from a home and /or educational background where there has been less opportunity to access practice interviews, coaching, guidance and other preparation;
    • further consideration of an application after the confirmation of exam results.
  • the WP Plus Flag to highlight students who could be made a differential  offer. Contextual offers are one grade lower than the standard offer and apply to Level 3 qualifications. Some programmes may also extend this to level 2 qualifications, for example, where there are specific GCSE requirements.

Is there any additional criteria I must meet to be eligible for a contextual offer?

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

  • 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).

How will I know if I have received a contextual offer?

If you're eligible and we are able to make you an offer for your chosen course, you'll receive a standard offer and a contextual offer from the University. These will be communicated to you at the same time and you'l be able to see the details on UCAS Track. The contextual offer will show lower requirements and applies only if you choose Manchester as your firm choice.

Do all courses make contextual offers?

The contextual offer scheme applies to courses with a minimum entry requirement of ABB equivalent. For example, this excludes all Nursing courses and all Foundation Year courses. 

Do I need to make Manchester my firm choice to benefit from the contextual offer?

Yes. You must have accepted Manchester as your firm choice by the 23 July or by the time you have received your results if this comes first.

Will I be eligible for contextual offer if I choose Manchester as my insurance choice & later swap?

Yes but only if you have accepted Manchester as your firm choice by the 23rd July or by the time you have received your results if this comes first.

If I decide to defer entry, will my contextual offer carry forward?

Yes, if an Academic School allows you to defer then the offer you have received will remain the same.

I already have my exam results, will I be made a contextual offer?

Yes, WP Plus applicants who already have their results will be made an unconditional offer if their grades are up to one grade lower than the standard offer. They must also satisfy the qualification and subject requirements for the course and any further selection measures such as passing a test or interview before this offer will be made.

My Widening Access Programme gives me a lower offer. Can this be combined with the contextual offer?

Students who are undertaking the Manchester Access Programme will not be eligible for a further lower offer if they have already receive a reduced MAP offer. Students who successfully complete MAP and have not received the lower offer of two A-level grades (eg a student on the General Strand of the programme who is only eligible for the standard offer for Medicine and Dentistry) will still be eligible for the contextual data reduction if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Students who complete the Manchester Distance Access Scheme, Pathways to Law and Pre-University Social Sciences Courses are still eligible for a contextual offer in addition to the reduced offer gained as a result of completing a programme. Specific details can be found in our Contextual Offer alongside Access Programmes document (PDF, 196KB).

For example, an applicant with a WP Plus flag who has completed MDAS would be eligible for a reduced offer of two A-level grades should they choose Manchester as their firm choice.

Does the contextual offer apply to all qualifications?

Yes, all applicants who meet the eligibility criteria will receive a lower offer based on the qualifications being taken.

Will the contextual data offer apply if I am re-sitting my A-levels or Level 3 qualifications?

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

I've been home-schooled. Will I be flagged for contextual data?

Should you meet the criteria for the geo-demographic indicator based on your home postcode then you would receive a WP flag like all applicants. However, you would not meet criteria for the education indicator and so would not receive a WP Plus flag. You would still be eligible for a contextual offer if you have been in care for more than three months.

If I apply through clearing, will the contextual offer apply?

The contextual data process does not apply in clearing. However, the University will take account of a range of factors at this point when determining your suitability for a programme.