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Using contextual data to widen access to higher education.

Boliver, V. and Gorard, S. and Siddiqui, N. (2021) 'Using contextual data to widen access to higher education.', Perspectives : policy and practice in higher education., 25 (1). pp. 7-13.


This paper reports on the findings of an ESRC funded project that contributes to the evidence base underpinning contextualised approaches to undergraduate admissions in England. We show that the bolder use of reduced entry requirements for disadvantaged learners is necessary if ambitious new widening access targets set by the Office for Students (OfS) are to be achieved. We demonstrate empirically that academic entry requirements for disadvantaged learners can be reduced substantially without setting these students up to fail at university. We also show that the use of area level measures to identify contextually disadvantaged learners – including the OfS's preferred measure, POLAR – runs a high risk of failure to reach the intended beneficiaries of contextualised admissions policies. We argue strongly in favour of the use of administratively verified individual level metrics to identify contextually disadvantaged learners, most notably receipt of free school meals and low household income.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:© 2019 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date accepted:05 October 2019
Date deposited:24 October 2019
Date of first online publication:17 October 2019
Date first made open access:03 March 2021

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