Accessibility statement

University of York launches “bold” scheme to boost fair access and social mobility

Posted on 3 February 2021

The University of York has launched a pioneering scheme to welcome more applicants from backgrounds that are underrepresented in higher education.

The scheme, believed to be the most comprehensive in the sector, aims to increase diversity among the student body by making contextual offers to applicants.

Applicants to the scheme will have the opportunity to tell the University about the barriers they face to entry to higher education - information that the University cannot currently access through UCAS. Applicants eligible for the scheme include individuals with a disability, people of black or Asian ethnicity and those entitled to free school meals.

Applicants accepted through the scheme are expected to begin their studies in October 2021.

The University believes it is the first to give students the opportunity to provide this information at the point of application and that the scheme offers a “bold and ambitious” way to improve the fairness of its admissions process and the diversity of its community.  


The scheme launches at the same time as the University’s Department of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media announces a new scholarship created to attract and welcome talented UK undergraduate students from under-represented backgrounds to York. 

The Visionaries Scholarship programme is funded by the department plus donations from alumni and friends to York Unlimited and will provide a unique package of financial and industry support for talented UK undergraduate students from Gypsy, traveller, black, Asian, or ethnically diverse backgrounds.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Charlie Jeffery, said: “The University has taken the decision to implement these bold new initiatives to make York more accessible to talented applicants from backgrounds that are currently underrepresented in higher education. 

“In creating these schemes we are acknowledging that our community is not as diverse as it should be but we are demonstrating our commitment to tackling this issue head on, in order to effect real change. Our University was founded on the principles of equality and opportunity for all and this scheme will now form an integral part of our mission to widen access and increase ethnic diversity, inclusion and belonging.  

“While the University has well-established widening participation programmes which remain crucially important, the status quo for increasing access to high tariff institutions like York is not going far or fast enough. These schemes are bold, ambitious and creative and are motivated by our belief in the value of a diverse community and the richness of ideas and creativity that people from a range of different backgrounds contribute.”

Widening participation

Successful applicants to the York Access Scheme will receive a “contextual offer” of up to two grades below the typical offer for a course. Candidates will still need to meet essential course requirements in terms of qualifications and subjects studied. 

The scheme will form part of a package of widening participation initiatives undertaken by the University, which include working with school children from primary school onwards in order to raise aspirations and enthuse and inspire talented people from all backgrounds about higher education.

From the point of being made an offer, successful applicants to the scheme will be supported by the University’s Access and Outreach Team as they move through the applicant journey in preparation for life and learning at York. 

Once they begin their studies at the University, a range of support options will be available including financial, social, and mental health support. 


Rebecca Clark, Head of Access and Outreach at the University of York, said: “Current measures that allow universities to identify less advantaged applicants and those from under-represented backgrounds based on postcode alone are far from perfect. This scheme will allow us to provide a fairer programme of support for all applicants and reflects our deep commitment to ensuring a York education is available to all talented candidates regardless of background. 

“We are working hard to ensure our student body is reflective of the diversity of our society and this approach to admissions recognises that not everyone has had an equal opportunity to demonstrate their ability at school or college. The scheme enables us to take into account more than just exam results, to assess potential and recognise achievements in a broader context.”

Applications for 2021 admission are now open. Applications can be submitted at the same time as UCAS forms, but the scheme will remain open for the 2021 admissions cycle until the end of March, 2021. 


Explore more news

Media enquiries

Alistair Keely
Head of Media Relations

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322153