Access to university, contextual offers and programmes

Here you can find information on our contextual offer making programmes as well as the opportunities that are available to students who might not typically consider higher education. Here at York we have a clear commitment and passion for supporting students, enabling them to reach their full potential. 

Contact us

Access and Outreach
+44 (0)1904 323529

Built on the founding principles of excellence, equality and opportunity for all, at the University of York we have a further commitment to widening access as we create ‘a university of public good’

We know that talented students can achieve their potential from every background,against any adversity they may have faced. We strive for a diverse student community which reflects our society - as we believe this will benefit everyone.

The work we do to support underrepresented students and groups is vital in helping to achieve our aims and to help offer fairness to future students. The following sections cover some of the work that is currently ongoing but we are constantly striving to do more. 

Universities are regulated by the Office for Students who work with each university to set ambitious targets on underrepresented groups and their access, progress and success at university. Each university has its own Access and Participation Plan (APP), these are reviewed regularly and offer specific targets.

Universities often use government data to direct fairer access and also seek to reach students from backgrounds most underrepresented. Schools’ and Colleges' measure of disadvantage can be different from universities particularly around data and pupil premium.

Contextual admissions policies are specific to each individual university but are focused on developing a holistic picture of applicants. Usually contextual admissions are focused the following: 

  • Individual student experience - household income, first family member to attend university, care experience, ethnicity underrepresented 
  • School information - for attainment, is the school/college the applicant attended below the national average
  • Geographic information - data driven, using data such as POLAR (Participation of Local Area) or IMD (Indices of Multiple Deprivation) 
  • Students can also receive a contextual offer if they have completed a specific Widening Participation programme.

It is vital that teachers, advisers, tutors and supporters are aware of these schemes and if their students may be eligible. For every student you advise or support please consider these schemes. 

We have groundbreaking widening access plans through contextual admissions at York. The most notable are the York Access Scheme and the Contextual Offers Scheme. 

These schemes are separate from mitigating circumstances. Mitigating circumstances are unforeseen circumstances or disruptive effects on a student’s ability to study. Our Hub section on Admissions, UCAS and References has more information on this.

This is an opportunity for students to inform us of background information which is more detailed than the UCAS form allows. Students can receive up to two grades below the typical offer plus an enhanced support package. 

There is a wide range of criteria, so please check to see if your students would be eligible. Contextual offers can be made based on students’ being from an underrepresented background including Black or British Black background, Asian or Asian British background, Mixed or multiple ethnicity background, Gypsy or Traveller background. In addition, information around Free School Meals, School Performance and long-term health conditions can also make students eligible.

Students have to complete an additional application form to receive the benefits of this scheme. Please click the button below for more details, contact information and application submission. 

This scheme is thought to be one of the most comprehensive in the sector and we continue to review and enhance it.

Explore the York Access Scheme

This scheme is typically effective straight from an applicant’s UCAS application.  

If a student lives in an area of the UK which has low levels of progression to higher education they might be eligible for this scheme. This will be automatically calculated by our admissions team but we do have a postcode checker viewable at the button below. 

Students can also be eligible if they’ve spent time in local authority care (such as foster or residential care) or if they have taken part in a widening participation programme delivered by the Access and Outreach team at York. 

Contextual offers are a reduced offer typically one or two grades below the standard entry requirements but for participation in one of our programmes, this could be three grades below typical offer.

Explore our contextual offer making scheme

We work closely with targeted schools across our region to deliver a range of activities and events. Our programmes with this age group are predominantly based within schools and promote the idea that a university education is an exciting and achievable prospect. 

Our Access and Outreach Team also attends a number of careers fairs within schools as well as delivering talks and workshops to students.  Please contact for further information. 

View our pre-16 programmes

We have a wide variety of activities and programmes that work with talented sixth-form aged students all year round. These programmes often require an application to participate in but they can also have direct benefits to a student's offer to study at York. Students who successfully complete some of our programmes can be eligible to receive an alternative widening participation offer (up to three grades lower than a typical offer).  

All of our eligibility criteria is outlined in each programme so please investigate these on behalf of your students. These programmes can be completely transformative for students, by signposting students to these opportunities we can all support students to make more informed choices about higher education.

View our post- 16 programmes

If you know that a student you are supporting has faced additional challenges there can also be additional support and resources available. For instance this might be because they are care experienced, live independently from family, they have refugee status or they are a mature learner.

These students can often have individual requirements which means the support they require can be complex. Each of our programmes support these students but get in contact with individual universities to check if there is additional support in place. 

One of the most important focuses for these students is the support structures that are in place at university. At York our student support pages have contact information as well as resources that can help demonstrate how these students are supported.

Contact us

Access and Outreach
+44 (0)1904 323529