We want to change things at Sussex and recognise that not everybody has the same support to help them get to higher education. At Sussex it’s important to us to have a diverse, inclusive university community with a range of voices and experiences. Contextual offers are one of the ways we remove the barriers to higher education ensuring that we have fair access to all regardless of background.
What is a contextual offer?
A contextual offer is a reduced grade offer which allows us to recognise the educational context and the challenges which some of our applicants face. The reduced grade offer varies across our courses with details of contextual offers published on our course pages.
We make contextual offers to students who meet certain eligibility criteria. These criteria have been chosen because they usually indicate someone is less likely to go on to study at university.
Depending on which course you want to study (and what qualification you are taking) the reduced offer is normally around BBC or BCC for A-levels. In 2022, 17% of our UK conditional offers were contextual.
Who is eligible for the contextual offer?
You will qualify if you meet any of the following criteria:
- You live in a postcode area facing social challenges or in a postcode area with low progression to higher education
Certain postcodes in the UK are used as measures to indicate that a person is less likely to apply and attend university. We use the home postcode on your UCAS application to automatically make a contextual offer.
If you want to find out before you apply whether you live in one of these postcodes, please use the suggested websites below:
Area of social challenge or deprivation
This dataset shows the IMD rank for your home postcode. It places postcodes into 10 rankings (or deciles).
Postcodes that are classed as D1 or D2 (or 1st decile or 2nd decile) in the ‘Index of Multiple Deprivation Decile’ column (F), entitle you to a contextual offer.
Area of low progression to higher education
This dataset shows the POLAR4 value for your home postcode. It places postcodes into 5 groups (or quintiles).
Postcodes that are classed as Q1 (or Quintile 1) entitle you to a contextual offer.
- You have received free school meals whilst attending secondary school
Applicants who have received free school meals whilst attending secondary school are eligible for our contextual offer. This is because we recognise that students who have received this support during their education are significantly less likely to progress to higher education.
Young people in the UK are usually eligible for free school meals if their parents or carers are on a low income or in receipt of certain benefits. If you are not sure, ask your school – they will be able to confirm this for you. You may also be eligible if you are paid qualifying benefits directly, instead of through your parent or carer.
We use the free school meal information we are given by UCAS on your application to automatically make a contextual offer. This relates to students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
If you feel that you may be eligible for a contextual offer because you receive free school meals, but haven’t received a contextual offer, please contact our Admissions team (telephone: +44 (0)1273 678416 or email: email@example.com), quoting you name and UCAS Personal ID number.
- You have been looked after in care for more than three months
Applicants that are care experienced are encouraged to disclose this by ticking the appropriate box on the UCAS form. Our admissions team will then use this information to make a contextual offer.
We also provide a range of additional support for students entering university from a care background.
- You are an estranged student
An estranged student is a young person studying without the support and approval of a family network. Young people in this position often have no contact at all with their family and have removed themselves from a dysfunctional situation.
As part of our Stand Alone pledge for estranged students we offer special consideration on application to Sussex. If this is something that has impacted you we would encourage you to let our admissions team know at the point of your application by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
- You have refugee status or Humanitarian Protection
If you have ‘refugee status’ or ‘Humanitarian Protection’ please use the ‘residential category’ on the UCAS application form to indicate your immigration status. Our admissions team will then use this information to make a contextual offer.
We're proud to be a University of Sanctuary, which means that we have officially been recognised as providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for migrants. Please email us at email@example.com if you need more help and support with your University application.
- You are a young carer
A young carer is someone who under the age of 18 has helped to look after someone in their family who is ill, disabled, has a mental health condition or misuses drugs or alcohol. This often means that those additional responsibilities have impacted on a young carer’s educational journey.
If this is something that has impacted you we would encourage you to let our admissions team know at the point of your application by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also want to reflect upon your carer responsibilities in your UCAS Personal Statement.
- You are registered on our University of Sussex Access Plus programme
Our Widening Participation team run the University of Sussex Access programme to support Year 12 and older students navigate their higher education options. The programme offers advice, guidance, an insight in to student life and opportunities to study many of our academic subjects.
If you are a registered student on this programme and meet our widening participation criteria you will be eligible for a contextual offer. Our admissions team will apply the contextual offer to all students registered on our Access Plus programme.
You can join and find out more about the programme.
What if I don't meet any of these, but have still faced challenges?
We will always review every application carefully. So if you have faced other challenges or circumstances that have disrupted your education then we will still consider you for a contextual offer.
For example, you may have had educational disruption due to a disability, a serious bereavement, a long term illness, a period of homelessness, or other difficulties in attending school. Some groups of students also experience educational disruption due to the nature of their family circumstances such as young people from travelling communities or children from military service families.
If you feel that you may be eligible for a contextual offer because of any of these circumstances above, please contact our Admissions team (telephone: +44 (0)1273 678416 or email: email@example.com) at the point of application and we will be happy to consider your offer further. Please email us with your name, UCAS Personal ID number and course applied for. We cannot tell you in advance of applying whether we will be able to make a contextual offer as we need to consider the full UCAS application, including your Personal Statement and Reference.
You may also want to reflect on any challenges you have faced within your UCAS Personal Statement or ask you school or college to talk about them in the UCAS Reference.
Improving access to Higher Education
Our Access Programme offers you the support, guidance and experiences to help navigate your post-16 education options. It aims to help you make more informed choices about your future, and the steps you need to take to get there.