Three Quarters of Students Believe Universities Should Take Applicants’ Backgrounds Into Account

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The majority of university students believe that universities should take into consideration the background of applicants, a recent survey of 1,305 undergraduates by the Higher Education Policy Institute has found.

72% of students support contextual admissions, whilst just 23% oppose lower offers for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Support was found to be higher amongst students attending more selective Russell Group universities, at 82%. However, support amongst students at post-1992 universities (former polytechnics or central institution given university status in 1992) is lower, at 66%.

Whilst 73% of students reported that they believe it is harder for people in disadvantaged areas to achieve good exam results, but only 47% supported the idea that universities offer lower grade offers to these same areas, with 45% opposing such a move.

Again, support for such contextual offers was higher amongst students attending Russel Group universities, with 57% in favour and 36%.

54% of students think that such students admitted with lower grades would be able to keep up with the course work with 38% disagreeing. 28% of students also believe that accepting students with lower grades would make it harder for students like themselves to be accepted into university.

The report concludes that, because ‘fairness’ is central to student’s perceptions of the issue, ‘policymakers and institutions’ should emphasise that ‘contextual offers are a means of rewarding potential rather than being a form of unwarranted positive discrimination’.

It recommends that universities do more to engage students ‘with the positive arguments for contextualised admissions’ and that the Office for Students ‘collects evidence on the success or otherwise’ of contextually-admitted students to ‘help quantify the extent to which contextual admissions can close participation gaps’.

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