Manchester Distance Access Scheme 2021

The Manchester Distance Access Scheme is The University of Manchester’s national widening access programme.

  • Have you been made an offer to start a course at The University of Manchester in September 2021?
  • Would you like the opportunity to develop your skills in preparation for university study?
  • Would you like a one-grade reduction from the standard offer from your chosen course at The University of Manchester?

The Manchester Distance Access Scheme (MDAS) is an online access programme for students who have been made an offer from The University of Manchester for a place on a selection of courses commencing in September 2021.

72% of students who successfully completed the Manchester Distance Access Scheme in 2020 progressed onto an undergraduate course at The University of Manchester.

If you're eligible for MDAS 2021 and would like to sign up, please complete this survey.

Please note that both the timeline and structure of MDAS 2021 have changed due to the early release of exam results and ongoing impact of the pandemic. Scroll down to the ‘The scheme’ section for updated information.

This information is correct for 2021 entry. If you're interested in participating in MDAS for 2022 entry, the details will be published here in autumn 2021.

Courses involved for 2021

Foundation year courses aren't eligible for the Manchester Distance Access Scheme, as these courses already have lower entry requirements.

The Academic Schools and courses currently involved in the Manchester Distance Access Scheme for 2021 are:

Arts, Humanities and Languages

  • Accounting
  • American Studies
  • Ancient History (all courses)
  • Archaeology (all courses)
  • Architecture
  • Art History (all courses)
  • Business Accounting
  • Classics
  • Classical Studies
  • Latin (all courses)
  • Drama (all courses)
  • Education
  • Educational Psychology
  • English Language (all courses)
  • English Literature (all courses))
  • Environmental Management
  • Film Studies (all courses)
  • Geography (all courses
  • History (with American Studies, Modern Language, Sociology)
  • History of Art (all courses)
  • International Business, Finance and Economics
  • International Disaster Management and Humanitarian Response
  • International Management
  • International Management with American Business Studies
  • IT Management for Business
  • Liberal Arts
  • Linguistics (all courses)
  • Management / Management (Specialisms)
  • Management, Leadership and Leisure
  • Modern Languages (Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish)
  • Music
  • Planning and Real Estate (all courses)
  • Environmental Management
  • Politics and Modern History
  • Religions and Theology
  • Theological Studies in Philosophy and Ethics

Science, Materials and Engineering

  • Aerospace Engineering (all courses except Foundation Year)
  • Chemistry (all courses except Foundation Year)
  • Chemical Engineering (all courses except Foundation Year)
  • Civil Engineering (all courses except Foundation Year)
  • Earth Sciences (all courses except Foundation Year)
  • Electric and Electronic Engineering (all courses except Foundation Year)
  • Mechatronics (all courses except Foundation Year)
  • Environmental Science (all courses except Foundation Year)
  • Fashion Buying and Merchandising
  • Fashion Management
  • Fashion Marketing

Health and Medicine

  • Nursing (Adult, Child and Mental Health)


If the course you're interested in is not currently listed here then they might not be participating in MDAS for 2021 entry. You can check back throughout the year to see if this has changed.

The School of Social Sciences run their own access scheme. Please visit the School of Social Science website for further information. 

MDAS offers

Students who are eligible (see Eligibility section below) for MDAS will be invited to participate in the programme in one of two ways:

1. Through UCAS

MDAS may have been included as part of the offer you received through UCAS from The University of Manchester. If so, then all you need to do at this time is fill out the sign-up survey. We'll then be in contact later in the academic year with further instructions.

2. Email invitation from the Academic School

If you have been made an offer to study at Manchester, your Academic School might wait until you have responded to the offer through UCAS before inviting you to participate in the scheme. Just follow the instructions in the email to sign up. 


MDAS is open to students who meet certain background criteria as detailed below. In order to participate in the scheme you must be holding an offer from The University of Manchester. Only students who choose Manchester as their 'Firm' choice will be able to participate in the academic element and go on to complete the scheme. Only students who choose Manchester as their ‘Firm’ choice will be able to participate in the scheme.

To be eligible for MDAS, you must:

  • permanently reside in the UK;
  • have been made an offer to start a course at The University of Manchester in September 2021;
  • live in a postcode area with low progression to higher education, or is indicated as a less advantaged neighbourhood;
  • have not attended an independent or fee-paying school;
  • not already hold a higher education qualification;
  • not be taking the Access to Higher Education qualification.

In order to participate, you must:

  • select a University of Manchester MDAS course as your 'Firm' choice;
  • be available to complete online work from 7 June to 22 July 2021.

Postcode target areas

Visit our eligibility page and type in your home postcode to find out if you live in one of our postcode target areas. If your ‘Home postcode flag’ is ‘Yes’ this means you could be eligible to participate in MDAS 2021. 

MDAS in combination with contextual offers

If you're a UK applicant under the age of 21, we'll 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 we consider talented applicants from all backgrounds.

If you live in an area of low progression into higher education and your school/sixth form has performed below the national average over multiple years, or you’re care-experienced, then you may also be eligible for a contextual offer. A contextual offer is usually one-grade lower than the standard entry requirements for any given course, and you don’t have to apply to be considered. You can use the eligibility page to confirm whether you’d be made a contextual offer – if you're identified as ‘WP Plus’ you may qualify for this reduction.

Any MDAS offer will be made in addition to this contextual offer. This means that a student who meets the WP Plus criteria, chooses Manchester as their 'Firm' choice, and successfully completes MDAS would receive an offer of two A-level grades below the standard University of Manchester offer for their Firm choice course (eg AAA could become ABB).

For information on what constitutes contextual data, how we use it and what WP/WP Plus mean, please visit our contextual data webpage.

The scheme

The benefits

  • Upon successful completion of the scheme you'll receive an offer one A-level grade below the standard offer for your chosen course at The University of Manchester (so if your offer is AAA, it would become AAB after successful completion of MDAS).*
  • An opportunity to receive university teaching before starting your course.
  • A chance to improve your academic skills in preparation for university study.
  • An opportunity to familiarise yourself with university-style assessment before starting your course.

*All differential offers are applied at the discretion of the Academic School. Please note that for some courses you may still be required to achieve a specific grade in certain subjects. If you're studying another type of qualification (eg BTEC Extended Diploma), then please contact us directly to find out if the MDAS offer could be applied to you.

*Students who are identified as WP Plus may receive a differential offer of up to two A-level grades below the standard offer for their course. Please visit the eligibility (see the Eligibility section above) page for more details.

Previous students’ experiences

Students who completed MDAS have described how useful they found participating in the scheme:

  • "It gave me confidence that I was capable and deserved to study at The University of Manchester."
  • "I just wanted to say that I think it's a brilliant scheme on two fronts, not only did it give me a reduced offer, but the opportunity to attempt a piece of work months before the course started was stimulating and exciting!”

What you’ll need to do

The scheme comprises two elements.

Firstly, you’ll complete an Academic Skills module consisting of five tasks, each with a different focus:

  • Understanding your task
  • Writing your essay
  • Referencing your sources
  • Avoiding plagiarism
  • Planning your presentation

Secondly, you’ll complete an academic piece of work related to the subject you’ll be studying at degree level. This could be a written assignment, online assessed module or problem-solving quiz (depending on your chosen subject and degree discipline).

Proposed dates for 2021

As A-level exams have been cancelled this year and students will receive their results earlier than normal on 10 August 2021, the timeline and structure of MDAS 2021 has been amended to fit within the shorter timeframe, and the amount of work expected from students has decreased. In spite of this, there have been no changes to the benefits for MDAS students, and they're still eligible for the grade reduction upon successful completion of the programme.

This year, the Academic Skills module and the Mini Degree module will run concurrently. You'll have from 7 June to 22 July 2021 to complete the Academic Skills module and the Mini Degree module.

Part 1: Academic Skills module

The Academic Skills module should take a maximum of five hours to complete in total and is designed to develop the skills you need for university-level study. The Academic Skills module is comprised of five separate tasks (see above) which will build on your existing skills, like essay writing, and recontextualise these for a university setting. It also aims to introduce you to topics that might be less familiar, for example plagiarism, to make you feel more confident when tackling undergraduate first-year assessments.

Part 2: Mini Degree module

For 2021 entry the Mini Degree module has been shortened to between 5/7.5 hours of work in total.

It is designed to familiarise you with the kind of assessment you'll undertake as part of your university course, whether this be a short answer question on a reading or an online quiz, and make you feel more confident in making the transition between sixth form or college and university.

80% of those who completed MDAS 2020 said that the programme made them feel more confident in starting their university studies, and 78% said that the scheme made them feel more prepared to start their first year.

You’ll receive confirmation of whether or not you've successfully completed the Manchester Distance Access Scheme prior to A-level results day. Upon successful completion of the scheme, a one grade differential offer will then be applied at results confirmation and clearing on 10 August 2021.

How to apply

To sign up for MDAS 2021 please complete the survey

If you've any further questions, please contact the MDAS team by email at

Student profile: Khansa

Khansa Iqbal, Manchester Distance Access Scheme 2018

Khansa Iqbal

Khansa took part in the Manchester Distance Access Scheme in 2018, taking the Chemistry stream and is now in her first year studying MChem Chemistry with Medicinal Chemistry at The University of Manchester.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m from a small town called Nelson in Lancashire. I’m a science-geek but am also interested in the human mind. I did A-level Biology, Chemistry and Psychology at college. I’m finding university life very enjoyable — I get to study the subject I love with a diverse group of awesome people, be a member of societies with goals in the wider community, and be in a city of vibrant culture! 

How did you hear about the MDAS programme?

As part of my application, I was invited to a visit day where I was interviewed by a member of academic staff. They told me that I was eligible to get a one grade differential offer if I completed the MDAS programme. I thought it may be something I would regret not doing come August if results day didn’t go as well as I hoped.

What did you enjoy most about participating on the scheme?

The fact that we were able to learn new, interesting and more complex concepts through a lecturer at the University. It made me excited to study chemistry because I was a bit apprehensive about the physics parts. It was a new learning style and I enjoyed adapting to it. 

How did the programme help you to get to where you are now?

My transition to university was much smoother by completing the MDAS. It gave me a better understanding of the level of challenge and the sort of learning and note-taking style that is best to adopt. I wasn’t overwhelmed by the new challenge of university lectures because, through MDAS, I had already experienced it. It gave me more confidence in my ability to learn independently, to take an explanation of a concept, critically think about it, use wider research to understand it more holistically and then put it into my own words — a crucial skill at university. 

What advice would you give others who are thinking of taking part in the programme?

To be on the safe side for results day, I think completing the programme is a must. Make the most out of the programme because it is a unique and one-off opportunity to really understand the independent learning aspect of university and develop your academic skills. It will ease you into university, which makes the transition infinitely less stressful.